A woman is holding a small bottle with a "Vaccine COVID-19" sticker and a medical syringe in this April 10, 2020 illustration.
Dado Ruvic | Reuters
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday proposed guidelines for distributing a coronavirus vaccine in the US, if and if one is approved for public use.
The guidelines, unveiled during a presentation at the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, would give priority to health care workers, key workers and vulnerable Americans such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.
This would include all paid and unpaid people working in the healthcare sector. These include hospitals, long-term care facilities, home care, outpatient departments and pharmacies. The CDC estimates that there are between 17 and 20 million healthcare workers in the United States.
The proposal also suggests that the necessary staff, estimated by the CDC as 60 to 80 million people who work in food and agriculture, transportation, education, energy, sanitation and law enforcement, will be among the first to receive the vaccine.
About 100 million people with the disease and 53 million people over 65 would receive a vaccine.
According to the Johns Hopkins University, there are currently no approved vaccines against the virus, which has infected 5.7 million Americans and killed at least 178,500 people.
While public health officials and pharmaceutical companies look for a safe and effective vaccine by the end of the year, infectious disease scientists and experts worry about who will get the vaccine first and how. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's leading infectious disease expert, the US will initially only have a limited supply of vaccine doses that will not be available for "several months" in 2021.
Many experts have said the vaccine should go to the most vulnerable groups first, including health care workers and the elderly, as well as poor and minority communities disproportionately affected by the virus.
Earlier this month, President Donald Trump told reporters at a White House press conference that a coronavirus vaccine should likely go to the elderly or the most at risk first, although he added that he would rely on a doctor's expertise to make that decision would. "We're making a list. Mostly nursing homes, old people's homes," he said on August 14th.
The CDC also indicated in its guidelines on Wednesday that it will be difficult to get vaccinations while practicing social distancing.
The agency said health care facilities such as vendor offices or pharmacies might be better suited for vaccination. According to the CDC, it can be difficult for health workers to reach rural areas, minorities, and populations with limited access to health care.
The CDC also said it was preparing for the opportunity to distribute different types of vaccines at the same time.
The U.S. has already invested millions of dollars in six potential vaccines as part of the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed initiative, including from pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna, which entered the third phase of studies last month. There is a chance the vaccines will be ready around the same time.
Trump previously said the U.S. would use the military to distribute the vaccine, but White House and Defense Department officials have denied this.