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What counts as a 'complex medical condition' in Phase 1A+ vaccine expansion?

Dr. Kathleen Toomey says they're working with children's hospitals across the state to decide what conditions will fall into that category

HOUSTON COUNTY, Ga. — On March 8th, several new groups will become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine: pre-K thru 12 teachers and staff, adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their caregivers, and parents of children with complex medical conditions.

RELATED: Kemp announces expanded criteria for those eligible for vaccine, including educators

As for the complex medical conditions, who exactly fits that criteria?

Dr. Kathleen Toomey says they aren't sure yet.

Kaththea Darmento's family is full people with compromised immune systems. She has lupus, and her daughter Lorelei has a feeding tube because she is deemed as "failure to thrive," which essentially means she has trouble gaining weight.

"We were in and out of the hospital the last couple of weeks, so it's been a little stressful," says Darmento. "When they put the G-tube in, they found that she had a hernia, so they had to do a special type of tie at the end of her esophagus to help so she doesn't get another hernia."

Darmento says that tie helps keep Lorelei's stomach and intestines in place instead of entering her esophagus. 

The family hasn't been anywhere in months because of the virus. She says they're still only ordering takeout and having groceries delivered.

She's crossing her fingers they will be included in this expansion for the sake of her kids.

"We're hoping we can fall into that situation to where they're understanding we seriously need it and hoping we can get it."

During Thursday's news conference, Dr. Kathleen Toomey, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, said they are working out the specifics.

"There are many many children who have chronic health conditions that may not be as vulnerable as others," she said. "We want to, at least at the beginning when vaccine is short, to make sure that we focus on those most at risk."

Toomey says they're working with experts to make that final decision before the expanded group opens March 8th. 

"We've reached out to all the hospitals, children's hospitals, in the state who deal with these children and are putting together a committee."

According to the Children's Hospital Association, complex health conditions could include things like pneumonia, diabetes, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis and cancer, but again, what will be included has not been decided or announced yet.

Michael Hokanson with the North Central Health District says they are also waiting to hear what the criteria will be and if families will need to show some kind of proof, like a doctor's note.

It's also important to note that children still are not eligible to receive the vaccine, not because they aren't included in Phase 1A+, but because none of the vaccine manufacturers have tested the vaccine on children under 16. 

Pfizer and Moderna are currently testing their vaccines on teens 12 to 15 and 12 to 17, respectively. Both companies say they hope to have data by June.

RELATED: Bibb County teachers excited after Gov. Kemp announces educators next in line for COVID-19 vaccine

RELATED: When will kids get a COVID-19 vaccine?


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