The CDC plans to give nurses and other healthcare workers the first doses of the coronavirus vaccine, according to Dr. José Romero, head of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
The Committee is responsible for developing immunization guidelines for the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to Dr. Romero, the choice to vaccinate healthcare workers first is a decision based on what will help us fight the pandemic better.
This decision also extends to support personnel in clinics and hospitals, which includes non-clinical personnel. The goal is to protect as many people as possible in the healthcare system so they can keep it running.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), is an established group of 15 experts in fields like immunology, virology, public health, and family medicine, to name a few. Their job is to decide how to distribute the vaccine in the most effective manner.
The search for a vaccine: where we are and what we’ve got
As of November 2020, there are no vaccines available for distribution to the public. According to The New York Times, there are 12 vaccines in Phase 3 testing (the final phase). There are also 6 vaccines that have been approved for limited use in other parts of the world.
In the United States right now, there are two vaccines making headlines. The first comes from American biotech company Moderna. The second comes from a joint venture between the American company Pfizer and German BioNTech.
Pfizer just released a statement on November 9 claiming that their early testing data showed that their vaccine was about 90% effective.
A week later, Moderna released a similar statement: their vaccine showed a promising 94.5% effectiveness rate, according to their own data.
These results put both Moderna and Pfizer at the forefront of vaccine development in the United States. If nurses are going to receive immunization against the coronavirus, there’s a good chance it will be thanks to one of these companies, or both.
Who will get the coronavirus vaccine? When will it be ready?
In an interview with NPR, Dr. Romero suggested that it was very possible to have a vaccine ready for “December or early January.” He also clarified that there will be some limitations. Their current strategy is to vaccinate high-risk individuals, healthcare providers and support staff.
The current CDC vaccine recommendations show that the ACIP has suggested the four following groups for early immunization:
- Healthcare personnel
- Workers in essential and critical industries
- People at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness due to underlying medical conditions
- People 65 years and older
There is no established order as to which of these groups would get vaccinated first. However, Dr. Romero did say that there might be an “universal agreement” in ACIP that the first rollout of the vaccine should be administered to healthcare providers.
Dr. Romero also remarked that we’re not waiting for just one vaccine. Other candidates that are currently in Phase 3 trials can be approved for widespread use. There is a chance that one vaccine might not be good for a given population, such as the elderly, so it’s great that there are many options in the works.
More on the possible COVID-19 vaccine
ACIP and the CDC are still waiting on the data they need to decide which vaccine goes into production, which one is safer, and so on. Moderna and Pfizer might have an effective contender, but there’s still a lot of testing to go through.
After testing is finished, the coronavirus vaccine will need to be approved by the FDA. This is when Dr. Romero and his colleagues will decide if the vaccine is viable, and which groups of people should receive it first.
“There will be an emergency meeting of ACIP within 24 to 48 hours after the FDA has made [its] recommendations on the approval,” Romero told NPR.
That meeting will help them decide exactly what to do with the vaccine. Their findings will become CDC recommendations for states and territories on who to vaccinate first. ACIP is currently reviewing different scenarios for vaccination using CDC computer models.
Romero also said that they “identified the top 10 hospitals to receive the initial allotment of the vaccine.”
He didn’t specify which hospitals or their locations. However, he said that new hospitals would get into that list as more doses of the vaccine became available.
On the other hand, Romero was very clear on the committee’s motivations. He said that these decisions were free from political influence. ACIP and the CDC only want to save as many lives as possible.
“I can emphatically say that I’ve had no contact with the administration or with pharmaceutical companies regarding influencing my decision on how to go with this,” he explained.
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