According to JosÃ© Romero, MD, Chair of the Centers for Disease Control's (CDC's) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), health care workers will receive the first doses of an FDA-approved vaccine once it becomes available.
The ACIP's stated goal for deploying a COVID-19 vaccine is "to decrease death and serious disease as much as possible." The decision, Dr. Romero told NPR, is based on the actions that will help control the pandemic fastest. "It's not just the doctors and nurses that are interacting with patients, but also the support personnel that help. [This] could include those persons that are delivering food, or maintenance people that could come in contact with them." Health care workers have experienced disproportionately high mortality from the coronavirus.
In addition to health care workers, the ACIP said that first doses would likely go to members of three other groups considered to be especially vulnerable to COVID-19: essential workers, people over the age of 65, and people with underlying conditions associated with severe illness from COVID-19.
The order in which these groups will receive vaccines depends on the characteristics of the product approved by the FDA – for example, whether that particular vaccine is more effective in older people, safe during pregnancy, or safe for people with heart disease. As clinical trials are still underway, Dr. Romero noted that it is too soon to determine which vaccine candidate will be most suitable for each group.
"There will be an emergency meeting of ACIP within 24 to 48 hours after the FDA has made [its] recommendations on the approval," Dr. Romero said. However, he added, "no shortcuts should be taken for this vaccine, and it should be scrutinized the same way we would advise any other vaccine for prevention of infectious diseases."