Who Will Get the Coronavirus Vaccine First?

Doctor vaccinating a senior woman
Photo by JPC-PROD / Shutterstock.com

Many of us dream of a day when a vaccine will finally end the coronavirus pandemic. With any luck, that moment is on the horizon.

In fact, some experts believe a vaccine could arrive before the end of the year. Others say we may have to wait a bit longer, until early or mid-2021.

But if and when that magic day arrives, it will open a question: Who gets the vaccine first?

As with so many health care decisions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will have a big voice in who moves to the front of the line. Since 1964, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has been charged with making such calls, USA Today reports.

Experts agree that there will be a relatively limited amount of the vaccine available. As Andrew Pavia, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, tells USA Today:

“It’s inevitable that the vaccine will come out more slowly than we like. We’re not going to have 350 million doses delivered Day One.”

In addition, the vaccine itself likely will have to be administered twice to anyone who is immunized, the Mayo Clinic reports.

Two shots are needed because people have no natural immunity to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The pair of doses would be administered three to four weeks apart, with immunity kicking in one to two weeks after the second vaccination.

With two doses needed per person — and a limited supply available overall — some people are more likely than others to be vaccinated right away. In a post on the medical news website STAT, Dr. Sandeep Jauhar, a cardiologist at Northwell Health in New York, speculates that two groups would be good candidates for immediate vaccination:

  • Health care workers, and those with jobs considered to be essential during the pandemic
  • Those people most at risk of dying from COVID-19. This might include the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. It also might include people in communities especially hard-hit by the virus.

However, Jauhar — author of the book “Heart: A History” — emphasizes that ultimately, the decision about who will receive the first vaccinations will depend on decisions made by “state and local health departments and community hospitals interpreting the federal guidelines.”

He adds that disagreements are inevitable and that officials will face tough decisions.

Dr. Arthur Reingold, division head of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California at Berkeley, made a similar point to USA Today:

“If I’ve only got 30 million doses for the next year and I’ve got a population of 350 million, who do I assign propriety to?”

Until a vaccine arrives, it pays to be extra cautious in protecting yourself from the ravages of the coronavirus disease. For more tips on doing so, check out:

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