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VERIFY: Will Washington smokers get COVID-19 vaccine before non-smokers?

Smokers in some states have a better spot in the vaccine line because they're more likely to get seriously ill or die from COVID-19.

SEATTLE — Smokers in some states have a better spot in the vaccine line because they're more likely to get seriously ill or die from COVID-19.

We asked the Washington State Department of Health if that's the case here.

The answer is yes, in some cases.

A Department of Health spokesperson told us “adult smokers of any age are at increased risk for COVID-19 and are prioritized for vaccine in Washington."

That's not happening yet.

Washington state is currently prioritizing healthcare workers, first responders, people 65 and older and some caregivers. Next, critical workers, such as those employed in grocery stores and public transportation, and educators 50 and older will get the vaccine.

And then starting this spring or summer, in phase 1b – tier 3, people in Washington with two or more risk factors — such as cancer, diabetes, obesity and smoking — will be eligible for the vaccine.

Dr. Ali Mokdad, professor of global health at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, said that one of the reasons for prioritizing certain people for vaccines right now is to prevent the overcrowding of hospital ICUs.

That requires targeting people, like smokers, who are most likely to be hospitalized, he said.

“I can see some people complaining that you're a smoker, you can quit smoking, but even if you quit smoking today, your lungs have been damaged, you're still at a high risk if you recently stopped smoking,” Mokdad said.