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Advisory panel meets to weigh who should get COVID-19 vaccine first

Dec. 1 (UPI) — An advisory committee to the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention will meet in an emergency session Tuesday to discuss who should be the first to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

The independent Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet in Atlanta to discuss the allocation of initial supplies of a vaccine, according to the panel’s agenda.

The committee is expected to approve a recommendation that healthcare providers be among the first recipients when a new vaccine becomes available, as soon as this month.

Who else will also be eligible to receive the first supplies in “Phase 1a” of vaccine distribution, however, remains a matter of debate.

Those expected to be included in later phases include people at high risk due to underlying conditions, those over the age of 65, essential workers and healthy adults and children.

State governors will ultimately make the decisions about who will receive the 6.4 million vaccine doses from Pfizer and partner BioNTech, which could start distribution as soon as next week.

Some committee members have voiced a preference for the Trump administration to include elderly residents of long-term care facilities in the first phase of the vaccination priority schedule, who are at greater risk of COVID-19 death.

Members of the administration’s Operation Warp Speed vaccine program, including Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, have said the most vulnerable Americans should be vaccinated early.

Some experts have objected to that idea, concerned about a lack of data showing how well the first vaccines work in frail, elderly populations.

“I recognize that they have suffered some of the greatest burden. But … we have no efficacy data in this population because it hasn’t been studied,” Baylor College of Medicine professor Robert Atmar told health news website Stat.

“We know from flu vaccine studies that this population tends to have less efficacy of flu vaccine compared to other persons,” he said.

The advisory committee’s non-binding recommendations will be made to CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield.

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