Health care workers and people who live in long-term care facilities will be first to get an COVID-19 vaccine once it's greenlit.
"I do feel this prioritization represents strong consideration of the frameworks of science, implementation and ethics and helps to maintain our health care system," said Dr. Peter Szilagyi.
"I really hope this highlights that our skilled nursing facilities are a population that needs lots of vaccines," said Dr. Helen Talbot, an infectious disease specialist.
But there’s not enough to go around.
Drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna have together promised enough doses for 22.5 million Americans by the end of this year. There are 21 million health care workers in the U.S. There are also 3 million residents in long-term care facilities. With limited supply, the rollout, even among this first group, will happen in stages. Skilled nursing facilities with more vulnerable patients will be higher on the list than assisted living facilities, and health care workers who come into direct contact with patients are higher up than, say, an IT worker at a hospital who can telework.
Governors and state health departments will really get the final say on who goes first.
The other big caveat is funding. Several states need more money to cover costs related to vaccine rollouts.
"The biggest concern that I see is that these states are going to have to ramp up production, receiving facilities, inoculation campaigns," said Dr. Joshua Lesko, an ER doctor. "The fact that you're going to have 50 potentially different plans rolling out all at once is going to be a lot of potential uncertainty with your average American as to who qualifies where."
The federal government is conducting dry shipping runs with the boxes, the dry ice and empty vials to about 60 sites across the U.S. right now to prepare. HHS Secretary Alex Azar has said that within 24 hours of approval, shots could be going into the first people's arms.