A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory panel recommended on Sunday that people 75 and older and certain front-line essential workers be next in line for COVID-19 vaccines.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted 13-1 to advise the CDC to include those 75 and older and specific front-line essential workers, including emergency responders and teachers, in the next phase of coronavirus vaccinations, several news outlets reported Sunday.
These recommendations would apply to phase 1b of the vaccination process, after the committee and the CDC advised that health care workers and residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities get the first vaccinations in the country. Phase 1b will aim to vaccinate about 50 million people before the end of February, according to The New York Times.
The ACIP also decided that the groups that should be prioritized in phase 1c are adults aged 65 to 74 and those aged 16 to 64 who have underlying medical conditions. The phase will also involve other essential workers such as corrections officers, postal workers, public transit workers and food supply workers, who were not included in the first two phases.
The advisory panel said it decided the prioritized groups based on information from scientists, ethicists, vaccination experts and the general public, NBC News reported.
José Romero, chairman of the ACIP and secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health, said the groups were selected “to address the current lack of vaccine supply and address those individuals with the highest risk for disease,” CNN reported.
CDC Director Robert Redfield will review the ACIP’s recommendations and determine if the agency adopts it as official guidance. During the meeting, the ACIP noted that its advice was nonbinding, as each state could adjust the recommendations for its own population, according to the Times.
Public health experts initially indicated they would allow a larger group of essential workers to receive the vaccine ahead of older adults. But ACIP member Kathleen Dooling noted that those 75 and older have made up 25 percent of COVID-19-related hospitalizations even though they account for 8 percent of the population, according to NBC News.
The recommendations come after Americans received the first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and after the Food and Drug Administration approved the Moderna vaccine last week. Now, about 6 million doses of the Moderna vaccine are being transported across the country.
The ACIP issued its guidance as the U.S. has confirmed 17.8 million COVID-19 cases and 317,408 fatalities, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
It also comes as the country has counted more than 150,000 new cases each day since the beginning of December and as the U.S. braces for the holidays. COVID-19-related hospitalizations have also remained above 100,000 each day since Dec. 2, according to The COVID Tracking Project.