Health-care personnel and residents of long-term care facilities have been tabbed as the first groups that will have access to a coronavirus vaccine, according to a new proposal from an independent advisory committee within the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On Tuesday, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices met virtually to discuss who would receive the long-awaited first vaccine doses once they are cleared for public use, and the proposal eventually passed thirteen to one.
The recommendations now must be approved by CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield before the vaccine can be distributed to states.
“To date, more than 240,000 health-care workers have contracted COVID-19 and 858 have died. According to estimates, deaths in long-term care facilities account for 40 percent of all COVID-19 deaths nationwide,” the CDC said in a statement.
“These factors contributed to the committee’s recommendation to prevent spread by protecting those on the front lines, health-care workers treating COVID-19 patients, and protect the most vulnerable, those elderly persons living in long-term care facilities. The committee intends to meet again following (the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s) authorization or approval for vaccine-specific recommendations.”
The committee defined health-care workers as paid and unpaid individuals serving in health-care settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials. Long-term care facility residents were defined as adults who reside in facilities that provide a variety of services, including medical and personal care, to people who are unable to live independently.
The panel meeting comes as states are busy preparing to distribute the vaccine in as few as two weeks. Moderna and Pfizer both requested emergency use authorization for their respective vaccines last month. The FDA reviews are expected to take several weeks—although the agency has scheduled a meeting for December 10 to discuss Pfizer’s request specifically.
Last month, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said that about forty million doses of coronavirus vaccine will be available by the end of 2020, enough to inoculate about twenty million people since the vaccine requires two doses.
Trump administration’s vaccine chief Moncef Slaoui contended on Tuesday that the entire U.S. population of 330 million could be vaccinated by June, and that there could be enough doses to immunize the rest of the world’s population of 7.8 billion by early to mid-2022.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.