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CDC advisory group recommends healthcare workers, long-term care residents be first to get COVID-19 vaccine

A CDC advisory committee voted 13-1 to recommend both healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents be the first to get a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available. The group is in what officials are calling “Phase 1A” for a vaccine distribution plan.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is made up of medical and public health experts who develop recommendations on the use of vaccines. The committee met for several hours Tuesday afternoon.

“I’ll just mention that this is a particularly difficult time in the United States,” said Dr. Beth Bell. “I just noted that since we’re averaging one COVID death per minute in the United States right now, in the time it takes us to have this ACIP meeting, 180 people will have died from COVID-19. So we are acting none too soon.”

Two companies plan to submit for FDA Emergency Use Authorization for their COVID-19 vaccine candidates. While public health experts say the news of a possible vaccine is promising, doses will be limited at the start.

During the presentation, experts said there are about 21 million healthcare personnel working in places like hospitals, long-term care facilities and outpatient clinics, while about three million adults live in long-term care facilities.

“For healthcare personnel, as of November 30, there have been at least 243,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 858 COVID deaths,” said Dr. Kathleen Dooling.

Dr. Dooling went on to present to the committee that long-term care facility residents and staff accounted for 6% of cases and 40% of deaths in the United States. According to the committee’s procedures, its recommendations will now go to the CDC’s director for approval. Once reviewed and approved, they’ll be published in a CDC weekly report, which represents the final and official CDC recommendations.

While the committee is recommending healthcare personnel and long-term care residents in this initial phase, USF Health’s Dr. Michael Teng thinks some people among the general population won’t see the vaccine for several months.

“I would say we’re going to have to be wearing our masks and maintaining physical separation and doing hand sanitation for maybe up to a year or more from now,” said Dr. Teng.

Dr. Teng reminds people this will be a two-dose process, so after the first dose, people will have to be very careful with COVID safety measures. He says even after the second dose, it will still take time for your immune system to respond.

“It’s going to be phased, so as more doses become available, then they’ll start going out to other populations,” said Dr. Teng. “I think the next population that they talk about is essential workers, so people like police and fire, but people like grocery store workers, teachers will get it the next part of phase one. The third part of phase one is likely to be those at high risk, who are either over 65 or have underlying medical conditions.”

The Florida Department of Health (FLDOH) has a drafted COVID-19 vaccination plan. The FLDOH tells ABC Action News it is working closely with the federal government to continue to plan for vaccine distribution, and its plan will be updated as they gather more information on a vaccine.

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