Nursing home residents and workers may be among the first to receive a coronavirus vaccine, depending on what a federal committee decides.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and an advisory committee of outside health experts currently are working on a priority ranking for upcoming vaccines, according to a New York Times story. A preliminary plan reveals that critical medical and national security officials would receive any approved vaccines first, followed by other essential workers and those considered at high risk, such as the elderly and people with underlying conditions.
Others who may go to the front of the line? Blacks and Latinos, since they have been disproportionately affected by the virus. But such a decision is a bit more controversial, as there may not be a scientific basis for this type of prioritization. Also, singling out minority groups — particularly African-Americans who have an historic mistrust of the U.S. healthcare system — ultimately may work to undermine public confidence in a vaccine, the Times reported.
Earlier this week, the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living urged the head of the Department of Health and Human Services to put long-term care residents and workers at the top of the list of those to receive a potential COVID-19 vaccine.
“This virus disproportionately impacts older adults, particularly those over 80 with chronic diseases, which comprises the majority of the population we serve,” they wrote in a letter Monday to HHS Secretary Alex Azar.
AHCA/NCAL added that top priority is warranted for the groups since “those we care for are the most vulnerable to the virus.”
The committee, which has been deliberating on the vaccine prioritization since April, reports to the director of the CDC. It includes 15 voting members selected by the health secretary who come from immunology, infectious disease and other medical specialties; 30 nonvoting representatives from across the health field; and eight federal officials focused on vaccines.
To fast-track development of a vaccine, the administration created Operation Warp Speed, which has invested billions of dollars in several companies. The vaccines with the most promise will be made even before the Food and Drug Administration authorizes them for the public. Still, there will be a lag time between the first available doses and large-scale vaccinations.