EDITORIAL: Weighty consideration

The Salem News, Beverly, Mass.
·2 min read

Apr. 8—We're not trying to damage anyone's self-image here, but it's worth noting that a large majority of Massachusetts adults are now eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccination — and may not even realize it.

As of Monday, adults ages 55 and older are eligible to get the shot. That expands on April 19 to include anyone age 16 and older. But, also as of Monday, the state widened its net of the vaccine eligible to include anyone with a single medical condition — including those of us considered overweight or obese.

Now time for some brutal truth. In Massachusetts, those categories include 3 in 5 adults, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which probably is a conservative estimate because it relies on people accurately self-reporting their weight.

The scale to determine who falls into either of those categories is the CDC's unforgiving "Body Mass Index." At 6 feet tall, if you weigh an ounce more than 184 pounds, you're considered overweight. (The state vaccine website, www.mass.gov/covid-19-vaccine, links to a CDC calculator to look up your own digits.)

Massachusetts does better in this area than the U.S., as a whole. Nationwide 2 in 3 adults are considered overweight or obese. The portion of New Hampshire's population in those categories is slightly higher than the national average.

And if the goal is to keep people healthy and out of the hospital, it makes sense to give vaccine priority to people considered overweight. According to the CDC, "the risk of severe COVID-19 increases sharply" for those people.

For that matter, being overweight also increases the likelihood of health problems that have nothing to do with COVID-19.

The state is also giving vaccine appointments to people with other health conditions, including diabetes and heart disease. Pregnancy also qualifies you for a shot. The state's vaccine website has the full list.

The state estimated that more than 1 million people are newly eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine with Monday's additional categories. Massachusetts is home to some 6.9 million people — more than one-third of whom have had at least one dose of the vaccine.

So, it may be a little bit uncomfortable, but if you're not certain where you fall on the CDC's obesity scale, it's worth taking a look — and, if you qualify, registering to get the vaccine.