Because risk for Covid-19 can vary among different groups of people, prioritization for a vaccine will be tricky, and President-elect Joe Biden will leave those decisions to health experts, Dr. Celine Gounder, a member of Biden’s coronavirus advisory board, said Friday.
There will likely be a limited supply of coronavirus vaccine doses available immediately after a vaccine is authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration.
“Other than health care workers, others who will be first in line to get it will be people who do have chronic underlying medical conditions who are older, as well as communities of color who have been disproportionately impacted by this pandemic,” Gounder told CNN.
“Now among those groups is where it starts to get a little bit more contentious,” she added. “How do you prioritize between the 85-year-old woman in a nursing home, versus the 65-year-old African American – especially when that 65-year-old may be as just as high-risk of significant disease?”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP) will recommend groups to receive the vaccine first.
“That’s where it gets a bit more political and frankly, this is where the President-elect is leaving it to the public health experts and scientists to figure out how best to allocate the limited supply first,” Gounder said.
The ACIP called an emergency meeting for December 1, where they will vote on the very first group to get a vaccine.
“Because we know that the vaccine will be available in very limited doses, even if they prioritize health care workers and older people in their population, it’s going to be really important to be a little more granular,” said Rick Bright, another member of Biden’s coronavirus advisory board.
“They’re going to discuss that granularity in health care workers. If I only have so many doses available, how do I prioritize those health care workers first and make those recommendations to the states?” he added.
Typically, the ACIP meets after a vaccine is authorized by the FDA to make recommendations, but they are working proactively in anticipation of a quick decision by the FDA.
“We foresee imminent authorization if this vaccine is shown to be effective and safe in the near future and we want to be at the point where we are providing appropriate guidance to the states and jurisdictions for the use of these vaccines,” ACIP chair Dr. Jose Romero told CNN.
Romero, who is Secretary for Health for the Arkansas Department of Health, said Tuesday’s vote is about the very first group to receive vaccinations, which could include healthcare providers and people in long term, congregate facilities.
Get CNN Health's weekly newsletter
Sign up here to get The Results Are In with Dr. Sanjay Gupta every Tuesday from the CNN Health team.
Pfizer has applied to the FDA for emergency use authorization for its vaccine. An independent panel of experts, the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, is slated to meet on December 10 to discuss the application. FDA officials say a decision should be made within a few weeks of the meeting and possibly much sooner.