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When the world has an approved COVID-19 vaccine, who should get that life-saving vaccine first? U.S. health authorities are hoping to release a draft of guidance on prioritization and how to best ration the initial doses by late August, according to the New York Times.
But now we’re a getting glimpse at who will be at the front of the line. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention introduced this opening recommendation last week: First, vaccinate 12 million of the most critical health, essential, national security workers. Next on the list would be the 110 million people at high risk from the coronavirus, including people over age 65 who live in long-term care facilities or people of any age who are in jeopardy with certain health risks or who are identified as essential workers.
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“These are tough decisions, because everybody can make a case for why somebody should be ahead of somebody else in line,” Bruce Gellin, former director of U.S. government’s National Vaccine Program told Science. “Nobody’s going to debate health care workers and first responders–people who are putting themselves at risk for others and keeping things moving. After that is when it gets complicated.”
COVID-19’s devastating toll on the elderly population could put them at the head of the line. The other suggested groups include soldiers, meat packers and grocery store workers whose specific professions or environment put them an increased risk, according to the journal Science.
Since COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on Black, Latino, and Native American communities, health authorities are also considering these communities for vaccine recommendations.
“Should race or ethnicity be a criterion?” CDC’s Sarah Mbaeyi asked. José Romero, a pediatric infectious disease specialist who chairs the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) thought these populations should get prioritization. “If we fail to address this issue … whatever comes out of our group will be looked at very suspiciously and with a lot of reservation.”
If a COVID-19 vaccine is approved for use as early as late fall or winter as Dr. Anthony Fauci optimistically projected, it will likely be in very limited supply. Critical vaccine trials this summer hope to prove which of several experimental COVID-19 vaccines are effective and safe. Moderna Inc. and Pfizer Inc. started tests last week that eventually will include 30,000 volunteers each. In the coming months, volunteers will also participate in vaccine trials from AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax, according to the Associated Press.