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Public health expert explains smoker COVID-19 vaccine controversy

Updated: Feb. 27, 2021 at 10:35 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Louisiana Department release a list of medical conditions that allows those who are 55 to get a COVID-19 vaccine, smoking is on that list.

Just a puff from a cigarette, and smokers over 55 jumped 3 million Louisianians who are still not eligible for a coronavirus vaccine.

Some people say the state is rewarding smokers for putting themselves at risk, but others say you can’t look at it that way. “So, I do think that it’s probably a great thing for people who are scared and want the vaccine, and they are truly at a higher risk to kind of help them get it. Well, certainly folks who smoke are putting themselves at risk but sometimes people that are smoking…it’s addictive, and they have a hard time quitting,” says Carlos Padial.

The Department of Health agrees, and says it put smokers in a high risk category because their lungs are already in bad shape. Adding on COVID-19 would only make matters worse. “Well, we don’t look at why someone chose to smoke. We look at what smoking does to your body because it can impact every organ of your body. Those that are smokers have an increased risk of developing serve illness from COVID,” says Dr. Gina Lagarde who is the regional medical director for region 9 of LDH.

The state says the vaccine is ultimately designed to keep people from dying, and research shows that smokers are far more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19.

Not only is it bad for breathing, smoking makes it harder for the body to fight off infections. “Knowing that this is a significant and serve respiratory disease, and smokers already have baseline lung damage that increases their chances of having a serve disease, hospitalized, on a ventilator, and even dying,” adds Dr. Lagarde.

LDH says that vapers over the age of 55 can also get the vaccine.

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