Initial COVID-19 vaccine supply not expected to be enough for high-risk populations

Public health officials don’t expect there will be enough COVID-19 vaccine doses to cover high-risk populations until at least next year, The Wall Street Journal reported. 

Experts have estimated that more than 100 million Americans are high-risk and should be vaccinated before the general public. High-risk populations include physicians, nurses and other front-line healthcare workers, as well as nursing home residents. They are considered high-risk because they’re at greater risk of exposure to the virus or at greater risk of contracting more severe COVID-19 disease. 

If a vaccine is approved this year, initial supplies look like they’ll only cover a fraction of those 100 million people, the Journal reported. It’s likely there would be 10 million to 20 million doses available at first, according to a presentation given by the CDC to a committee of vaccine advisers last week. 

Officials of President Donald Trump’s administration gave a similar estimate during a call with reporters last week, according to the Journal

“Given the initial anticipated supply, not all groups that are deemed a priority will be able to be vaccinated at once, Sarah Mbaeyi, MD, a CDC medical officer, said during the CDC’s presentation.

The limited supply could mean prioritizing staff in hospital emergency departments and intensive care units before other healthcare workers, officials and advisers told the Journal

There is uncertainty over who has the final say on the prioritization and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. Several drugmakers have said they would defer to the government on prioritization decisions. 

The CDC’s vaccine committee typically makes recommendations about priority vaccinations and is  working on a COVID-19 vaccine plan, according to the Journal. But the heads of the CDC and National Institutes of Health asked the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to form a separate committee last month to create a plan for equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. 

Officials in Operation Warp Speed, the White House’s task force to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, also are deliberating over who should get a COVID-19 vaccine first. 

The FDA would have the power to specify who gets priority for a vaccine if it grants an emergency use authorization for it, the Journal reported. 

Read the full article here.

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