On Tuesday, a panel advising the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) voted to recommend that residents and employees of nursing homes and medical centers, and health workers should be the first people to receive COVID-19 vaccines.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted 13 to 1 during an emergency meeting to make the recommendation.
CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield will decide by Wednesday whether to accept the recommendation as the agency is getting prepared to start delivering doses within a couple of weeks.
Dr. Beth Bell, the co-chair of the panel, who is from the University of Washington, said, “We are acting none too soon,” noting that the virus would kill around 120 Americans during the meeting alone.
The new recommendation from the panel comes a few weeks after Pfizer and Moderna announced that their vaccines are nearly 95% effective.
The companies have estimated that they will have enough does to vaccinate more than 22 million Americans by the end of 2020, with the required two doses, a few weeks apart.
However, Dr. Helen Talbot of Vanderbilt University was the only panel member who voted against the recommendation. She
She expressed concerns over putting long-term care residents in the first priority group, as the vaccines’ safety had not yet been studied in that particular population.
“We enter this realm of ‘we hope it works and we hope it’s safe,’ and that concerns me on many levels,” Dr. Talbot said before the vote.
Dr. José Romero, the panel’s chairman, said that he felt strongly that its process had adhered to its core principles – “maximizing benefit and minimizing harm,” promoting justice and addressing health inequities, according to the New York Times.
On Tuesday, Dr. Moncef Slaoui, who leads the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed, told The Washington Post that Pfizer and Moderna would be able to provide an additional 60 to 70 million doses in January “if all goes well.”
He said production will continue to increase in February and March, hoping that two other vaccines, from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, will get the approval from the FDA.
Dr. Slaoui said, “So very quickly, we start having more than 150 million doses a month in March, April, May.”
Another panel member Dr. Grace Lee from Stanford said special attention should be paid to frontline health care workers in lower-paying positions, like nursing assistants, food workers, and janitors. She said, “I am very mindful of the equity concerns.” The article originally appeared in the New York Times.