Debate begins over who will have priority access to COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available

As the U.S. gets closer to approving a COVID-19 vaccine, a new debate is igniting: Who will have priority access?

“I think it’s unlikely that the COVID vaccine that first hits the market will be made available as a first-come, first-serve type of vaccine,” said Dr. David Aronoff, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which is part of the CDC, met in late June.

During that meeting, presenters suggested the vaccine first go to healthcare and other essential workers and high-risk populations.

Those plans are still being discussed and tweaked.

“There obviously are a lot of populations that could benefit from being able to prevent COVID-19,” Aronoff said.  

He added the current trials are focused on adults.

More research may be needed to target other populations like kids, those severely immunocompromised and pregnant women.

“This large trial that we’re participating in now is not including pregnant people in the trial, so whether the vaccine can be used in that group will not be clear in this trial,” Aronoff said.

While a vaccine may be close, the new race will be how to distribute it as quickly and effectively as possible.  

“It will take us four or five months to get people vaccinated to a level that you can say, 'OK, now we are getting immunity where we can start relaxing protective measures,'” said Orange County Health Officer Dr. Raul Pino.

While the CDC has teams working on this, other outside organizations have been asked to weigh in since this is such a crucial decision.