- The independent panel of experts that decides who gets access to coronavirus vaccines made a few significant changes to the original recommendations.
- The CDC panel advises that people over 74 and certain essential workers should be included in the second phase of vaccinations, after healthcare workers and people living in long-term care facilities.
- The original plan called for all essential workers to get the vaccines in the second stage of immunizations, with all people over 65 to follow.
More than 556,000 people received the first dose of Pfizer’s vaccine so far, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Moderna vaccine was just authorized as well, which means even more people will soon have access to these highly-effective drugs. Healthcare workers and residents at long-term care homes are the first groups with access to COVID-19 immunizations. But some changes have been made to the groups of people who will follow.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) announced new recommendations for COVID-19 vaccination prioritization, and they’re different from the original guidelines. The panel of independent experts said that essential workers will follow the first groups. Then, people over 65 will have access to vaccines. Those two groups remain a priority for vaccinations, but the panel made a few tweaks and now some other essential employees and people over 74 will be included in the second stage.
The two groups include about 51 million people, reports The New York Times. Officials have estimated that some 100 million people might be vaccinated by the end of February, including 21 million health care workers and three million residents of long-term care homes. The vaccines approved so far require two doses, and so do several other vaccines that are still in clinical trials. Vaccination remains voluntary, and people will decide whether to get immunized or not when the option is presented to them.
The original ACIP recommendation that all essential workers be vaccinated before the elderly received some pushback last month, including from CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield. The ACIP experts explained last month that many people of color are working essential jobs, and they’re being hit disproportionately hard by the virus. Similarly, adults over 65 are also more affected by COVID-19 complications than the younger population.
The original recommendation included about 90 million essential workers to be included in the second phase of vaccination. Now, the panel reduced the number of essential employees to make room for people over 74, who might be at risk of death if they catch COVID-19.
It’s “frontline essential workers,” including emergency responders, teachers, and grocery store employees, who will be included in the roughly 30 million people who will be vaccinated in the coming weeks. The Times reports that some in the group suggested that people working school support staff jobs, daycare employees, correction personnel, public transit, postal workers, and people working in food production and manufactured be included in the group. But the final recommendations aren’t that specific.
Once people in these groups receive the shots, the committee said that a third group of people should become the focus of vaccines. That’s people aged 65 to 74 and all the people between 16 and 64 years old who suffer from high-risk medical conditions that could lead to severe COVID-19. Between them, these groups include 142 million people.