Dec. 1 — An advisory committee to the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention said Tuesday that healthcare workers, and workers and residents at nursing homes should be the first to receive a COVID-19 vaccine when one becomes available.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted 13-1 in favor of prioritizing the groups, which also includes staffers and residents at other long-term care facilities.
This first group of recipients will be known as Phase 1a and will include some 23 million Americans.
The committee held an emergency meeting in Atlanta to discuss the allocation of initial supplies of a vaccine, which could become available as soon as this month.
Those expected to be included in later phases include people at high risk due to underlying conditions, those over the age of 65, essential workers and healthy adults and children. The committee will meet at a future date to determine subsequent phases of the vaccination program.
State governors will ultimately make the decisions about who will receive the 6.4 million vaccine doses from Pfizer and partner BioNTech, which could start distribution as soon as next week.
Some committee members voiced a preference to include elderly residents of long-term care facilities in the first phase of the vaccination priority schedule, who are at greater risk of COVID-19 death.
Members of the administration’s Operation Warp Speed vaccine program, including Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, have said the most vulnerable Americans should be vaccinated early.
Some experts have objected to that idea, concerned about a lack of data showing how well the first vaccines work in frail, elderly populations.
“I recognize that they have suffered some of the greatest burden. But … we have no efficacy data in this population because it hasn’t been studied,” Baylor College of Medicine professor Robert Atmar told health news website Stat.
“We know from flu vaccine studies that this population tends to have less efficacy of flu vaccine compared to other persons,” he said.
The advisory committee’s non-binding recommendations will be made to CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield.