The lack of efficacy data in long-term care residents and older adults in COVID-19 vaccine studies was the key reason why a member of a federal advisory panel voted against a recommendation to prioritize nursing home residents for the medication once ready. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted 13-1 in favor of a recommendation to give long-term care residents and healthcare workers first access to the COVID-19 vaccine during an emergency meeting last week. Panel member Helen Keipp Talbot was the only one to vote against the recommendation.

Talbot has expressed concerns about the lack of long-term care residents being included in the ongoing COVID vaccine trials. She noted that vaccinating long-term care residents first is the right approach “if we have data.” 

“That’s the kicker,” she told STAT News. “We routinely, and for almost all of our adult vaccinations until recently, tested them in college-aged kids and Army recruits and saw that they’ve worked and use them an older adults.”  

“We need to quit assuming that these vaccines work and actually design them and test them in this population and use them appropriately,” she explained. 

She added that she fears the COVID-19 vaccines won’t be used as efficiently as they could be. 

“If I know it works in a healthy healthcare worker, I’d rather get all the healthcare workers vaccinated, so that when they are around the frail elderly, they don’t get the frail elderly sick,” she said.