When a COVID-19 vaccine comes out, who will have first priority?

Once scientists develop a COVID-19 vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will likely decide who gets immunized first—as it has for the past 56 years. The World Health Organization’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization also develops its own guidelines. 

Both organizations have already begun creating a plan for distributing the COVID-19 vaccine, USA Today reported. ACIP’s next meeting about vaccine recommendations is June 24. 

A vaccine’s distribution depends on who is most at risk, former ACIP member Dr. Arthur Reingold told the newspaper. 

“If I’ve only got 30 million doses for the next year and I’ve got a population of 350 million, who do I assign propriety to?” Reingold said.

However, Reingold said healthcare providers, first responders, military members, political leaders, older adults, pregnant women, and children usually are vaccinated first. The U.S. could also decide to give priority to hot spots, where the virus has spread rapidly. 

ACIP member Dr. Grace Lee told USA Today that it depends on the data. For example, it could be more helpful to immunize caregivers rather than older people. 

“We think about who’s at risk for being exposed, who suffers the worst complications and which population provides the highest benefit due to herd immunity,” said Lee.

When the White House announced Operation Warp Speed on May 15 — a federally funded project to speed up the mission to find a vaccine and distribute it — the administration’s vaccine czar Moncef Slaoui said a few hundred million doses of the vaccine could be delivered by the end of 2020.

Slaoui’s figure takes into account that Operation Warp Speed plans to both develop multiple COVD-19 vaccines and then distribute it with the support of the military. 

Sources: CDC, USA Today 

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