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Who’s First In Line for the COVID Vaccine? CDC’s Immunization Advisory Committee Makes Recommendations

December 4, 2020

With the first shipments of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine scheduled to arrive in a matter of weeks and Moderna doses soon after, a big question looms: who gets them first? Independent health policy experts on the vaccine advisory committee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) met this week to make a recommendation.

The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) held an emergency virtual meeting on December 1 to determine allocation of the initial doses of COVID-19 vaccines. They voted 13-1 to recommend that the first doses are given to health care workers, including those in long-term care facilities, and residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities—about 24 million Americans, according to STAT News.

Why these groups? “Health care workers have been hit hard, with at least 243,000 infections and 858 deaths, according to CDC data presented at the ACIP meeting. Residents of nursing homes, who tend to be older and in poor health, are also especially vulnerable to the COVID-19. Nearly 500,000 residents and staff in skilled nursing facilities have contracted the disease as of mid-November and nearly 70,000 have died, according to CMS data,” notes POLITICO.

This is in line with the recommendations from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, who said frontline health workers, first responders, and seniors in nursing homes should be among the first vaccinated to maximize societal benefit and mitigate health inequities. Within the CDC’s prioritization recommendations, states will make the final decisions.

The next steps: After the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory committee meets to discuss emergency use authorization of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine (December 10) and Moderna vaccine (December 17), ACIP will meet again to make final recommendations on how each should be used within the prioritized populations. This is the key independent recommendation that matches each vaccine to the best population to receive it. ACIP will also meet over the next few weeks to discuss recommendations for subsequent vaccination phases—likely to include essential workers and adults with multiple chronic conditions putting them at risk of severe COVID-19 illness.

On a recent episode of the I AM BIO Podcast, BIO’s VP of Infectious Diseases Phyllis Arthur spoke with Dr. Helene Gayle, President and CEO of the Chicago Community Trust and one of the authors of the National Academies’ report, about who should get vaccinated first and why. Get the episode at www.bio.org/podcast or via AppleGoogle, or Spotify.