CDC panel says health workers, long term care residents should get COVID vaccine first

Health workers and residents of long-term care facilities should be at the front of the line to receive the first limited doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, a federal advisory panel formally recommended Tuesday.

The specific recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s independent Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) were expected, as the committee has been broadly supportive of them during recent meetings.

The recommendations passed by a vote of 13-1.

So what’s next: If CDC director Robert Redfield approves, they become official CDC recommendations. States don’t necessarily have to follow the recommendations, but it gives them some much-needed guidance ahead of a Friday deadline to submit vaccination distribution plans to the federal government. States also have significant leeway to come up with their own definitions, and even create separate sub-prioritization groups.

Who is left out: It’s hard to argue that health workers and long term care residents shouldn’t be first in line. But because there will be so few doses available initially, difficult choices are needed. Once the recommendations are adopted, it will mean other high priority groups, like people older than 65, essential workers, and those with underlying medical conditions will have to wait for the second phase, or later.

There’s still no vaccine available: No vaccine has been authorized for distribution yet, but a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel is set to meet on Dec. 10 to discuss the one manufactured by Pfizer. The agency could issue an emergency authorization within days of the meeting, and shots are expected to be sent to states within 24 hours of authorization.