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CDC panel says first Covid-19 vaccine doses should go to health workers, long-term care residents

Determining priority is crucial given the limited initial supply of vaccines and the surging U.S. outbreak. So far, 13.6 million people in the country have been infected and nearly 270,000 have died.

Health care workers have been hit hard, with at least 243,000 infections and 858 deaths, according to CDC data presented at the ACIP meeting. Residents of nursing homes, who tend to be older and in poor health, are also especially vulnerable to the Covid-19. Nearly 500,000 residents and staff in skilled nursing facilities have contracted the disease as of mid-November and nearly 70,000 have died, according to CMS data.

Last-minute switch: ACIP was originally scheduled to meet and finalize its recommendations only after the FDA authorized use of the first Covid-19 vaccine. But the panel announced last weekend that it would meet Tuesday on an emergency basis to vote on the highest priority groups — days before the federal government’s Friday deadline for states to submit initial vaccine distribution plans.

Background: Trump administration officials say up to 40 million doses of vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna — enough to vaccinate 20 million people — will be available by the end of 2020. Between 5 to 10 million additional doses are anticipated to be available per week in early 2021.

The federal government is distributing the shots to states based on their populations.

What’s next: ACIP will refine and finalize its full recommendations for vaccine distribution and use after FDA authorizes any vaccines and the committee can see late-stage trial data, presenters said Tuesday. For instance, the CDC’s Sara Oliver said additional guidance will be forthcoming on the use of vaccines in pregnant women.

The recommendations will then go to CDC Director Robert Redfield for his sign-off.

The FDA’s vaccine advisory committee will meet Dec. 10 and 17 to review Covid-19 vaccines submitted for emergency use authorization by Pfizer and Moderna, respectively.

Zachary Brennan contributed to this report.

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