Now that multiple drug-makers have announced a promising COVID-19 vaccine candidate, the question arises; who gets the first shots.
On Tuesday, an advisory panel to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) will meet for an emergency session to discuss just that. The independent Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will convene in Atlanta to discuss the distribution of initial supplies of a vaccine. That’s because Moderna and Pfizer, the two pharma companies with the most promising candidates, are unable to produce enough vaccine doses for the entire country at the start. Still, both companies believe they will be able to offer at least a limited supply by the end of the year. As a result, the CDC is ruminating over who ought to get that first doses.
The committee is likely to recommend that healthcare providers receive the earliest doses of the vaccine, which could be ready for use by the end of this month. But who else will qualify for an early dose is still up for debate.
Some have argued that people at high risk ought to receive first access to the vaccine. That might entail individuals over the age of 65, the immunocompromised, the overweight and those with underlying health conditions. Additionally, some committee members have advocated for elderly residents in long-term care facilities as initial recipients.
Meanwhile, others argue that healthy adults and children should receive the earliest doses, since they are more likely to spread COVID without showing symptoms. Some have brought up concerns over inoculating the elderly, since there is little available data showing how well the vaccine works on our oldest citizens.
“I recognize that they have suffered some of the greatest burden,” says Baylor College of Medicine professor Robert Atmar about seniors. “But … we have no efficacy data in this population because it hasn’t been studied. We know from flu vaccine studies that this population tends to have less efficacy of flu vaccine compared to other persons.”
Ultimately, it will be up to state governors to determine who will receive the limited early phase doses. But CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield will confirm the agency’s official recommendation following Tuesday’s committee meeting.