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Coronavirus: Who will get a vaccine and when?

Written by Diane Archer

With a few COVID-19 vaccines making their way through the clinical trial phase and seeing successful outcomes, it is more than likely that a vaccine will be approved by the end of this year or early next year. It will take time though to manufacture enough vaccines for the US population. The question becomes who will get a vaccine and when.

As of now, experts assume that people will need at least two vaccine injections to be protected from the virus. By early 2021, it looks as if there might be enough vaccines for 50 million people, 100 million doses. If they are available, we don’t yet know the distribution plan.

It makes sense that older adults would be at or near the top of the list to receive the vaccine since older adults are most likely to die if they catch the novel coronavirus. Essential workers are most at risk, and they should be at the very top of the list. Racial equity issues also should be factored into the decision of who gets the vaccine early on.

Helen Branswell reports for Stat News that, as of now, there are three different entities charged with coming up with a plan for rolling out the vaccine: The National Academy of Medicine, which was asked by federal authorities to come up with a plan; the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), a special panel charged with vaccine policy for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which in situations like these normally comes up with the plan; and, Operation Warp Speed, the federal government’s fast-tracking program for the COVID-19 vaccine, which claims to have authority over how the vaccine is distributed.

The hope is that these three entities can work collaboratively. Otherwise, it’s hard to imagine that they will all agree on a plan. And, if they do not, it’s unclear which agency will be the ultimate decider. This disorganization is another indicator of how desperately the US is in need of strong leadership.

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