First US Covid vaccines should go to health workers and nursing home residents, CDC panel says

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted 13-1 on Tuesday to recommend healthcare workers and residents at long-term health facilities receive the first doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, upon approval, as state and local governments prepare to distribute a vaccine within weeks.

Drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna have sought emergency use authorisation from the Food and Drug Administration for their vaccine candidates. The agency meets on 10 December to review the requests, and administration officials believe distribution can begin almost immediately upon approval.

Both vaccines require two doses, given roughly one month apart; Dr Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said it will likely take three weeks to vaccine health workers.

Nearly 40 per cent of related deaths in the US have occurred in long-term care facilities like nursing homes, according to the committee. There are roughly 3 million people living in long-term care centres in the US.

The drugmakers have estimated they will have enough vaccines for roughly 22 million Americans by January – leaving states and local jurisdictions to determine which health workers will be vaccinated first, relying on guidance from the CDC.

Officials have also suggested a second round of immunisations for essential workers, followed by Americans with a higher risk of serious complications from infection.

Dr Moncef Slaoui, the chief science adviser leading the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed initiative that has fast-tracked vaccine and drug development, told The Washington Post on Tuesday that drugmakers could provide up to 70 million more doses in January “if all goes well.”

That production will continue into spring 2021, with potentially two more vaccine candidates – from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson – preparing for approval, he said.

“We start having more than 150 million doses a month in March, April, May,” he said. Administration officials have estimated most Americans will be able to receive a vaccine by June.

More than 13.6 million coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the US since the onset of the pandemic, and more than 270,000 Americans have died, according to Johns Hopkins University, as the nation is gripped by another surge in infections and record-breaking numbers of patients hospitalised with the disease.


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