After months of deliberation and debate, a panel of independent experts advising the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted Tuesday to recommend that health care workers who are most at risk of contracting Covid-19, along with residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, be the first Americans to receive coronavirus vaccinations.
If the C.D.C. director, Dr. Robert R. Redfield, approves the recommendation, it will be shared with states, which are preparing to receive their first vaccine shipments as soon as mid-December, if the Food and Drug Administration approves an application for emergency use of a vaccine developed by Pfizer.
States don’t have to follow the C.D.C.’s recommendations, but most probably will, said Dr. Marcus Plescia, the chief medical officer for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, which represents state health agencies. The panel, called the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, will meet again soon to vote on which groups should be next to receive priority.
Here are answers to some common questions about the vaccine and its distribution.
Who will get the vaccine first?
The C.D.C. committee recommended that the nation’s 21 million health care workers be eligible before anyone else, along with three million mostly elderly people living in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
A staggering 39 percent of deaths from the coronavirus have occurred in long-term care facilities, according to an analysis by The New York Times. But there won’t be enough doses at first to vaccinate everyone in these groups; Pfizer and Moderna, the two companies closest to gaining approval for their vaccines, have estimated that they will have enough to vaccinate no more than 22.5 million Americans by January. So each state will have to decide which health care workers go first.
They may choose to prioritize critical care doctors and nurses, respiratory therapists and other hospital employees, including cleaning staff, who are most likely to be exposed to the coronavirus. Or they may offer the vaccine to older health care workers first, or those working in nursing homes, who are at higher risk of contracting the virus. Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky said on Monday that most of his state’s initial allocation would go to residents and employees of long-term care facilities, with a smaller amount going to hospital workers.