Medical Groups Working On Plan For Who Will Get COVID-19 Vaccine First

( Progress is being made on a number of COVID-19 vaccines. Just this week, positive news came from early-stage trials of a vaccine under development from Oxford University and AstraZeneca.

But as the medical world is trucking ahead full speed to create a viable, long-lasting vaccine, one major question is starting to pop up: Who will get access to the vaccine first?

In June, Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, began talking with the National Academy of Medicine to start to answer this very important question. Dr. Victor Dzau, the president of the Academy, said they were interested in helping.

“It will allow the public to know it’s transparent, it’s not political,” he said about creating an access plan. “The American public will want to know how are you making that decision? Why am I not getting it first?”

Up until now, all the focus about a coronavirus vaccine has been on actually developing one. From who will be the first to go to market, to whether it will provide permanent or temporary immunity, to whether it will be free or cost money, most of the questions have surrounded getting the vaccine created.

Now, with a few vaccines showing early promise, the focus will start to shift to figuring out how to distribute it. Once a vaccine is proven reliable, safe and effective, people will want to get it right away.

How will they get it? Will it be readily available at pharmacies and doctors’ offices as the annual flu vaccine is? Will there be a sign-up process that prioritizes high-risk individuals? Will there be long lines as there are at COVID-19 testing facilities?

While details still need to be ironed out, of course, Collins is hoping that everything is done in a transparent way. This will help to keep Americans in the loop about developments, and take away some of the obvious anxiety that it may cause.

“People are a little uneasy about the government calling the shots here,” Collins said.

In all reality, the people who will get early access to a COVID-19 vaccine are those who are deemed to be most vulnerable. That could include people living in assisted living facilities, those who work at essential jobs and in close quarters like at meat packing plants, and even people in prison.

A challenge also remains on how to identify people who have pre-existing conditions don’t live or work in one of these high-risk situations.

The National Academy of Medicine is working now on recommendations that it hopes it will share with the public sometime next month or in September. At the same time, advisers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is creating a similar set of guidelines.

Ultimately, the White House will have to make the final call using these recommendations and that from other groups as well.

The key to calming Americans is being transparent about the information, including letting them know a timeline of when everyone could have access. Vaccination expert Vijay Samant said it could take anywhere from six months to one year to vaccinate a large enough segment of the population to slow COVID-19’s spread.

“That’s if you’re lucky,” he said.