Since March, researchers have been searching for a vaccine to prevent transmission of the coronavirus disease. Now at least two medicines are showing promise. The question has become this: Who will be the first to get COVID-19 vaccines?
The two vaccines are both made with a brand-new technology: They use a snippet of the genetic code of the coronavirus. That little bit of material will train the body to recognize the real virus if it comes along.
Drug company Pfizer said yesterday that new test results show its coronavirus vaccine is 95% effective. The results also show that the drug is safe for protecting older people who are most at risk.
As for who will be vaccinated first—no official decision has been made. But many experts in the United States and globally believe that healthcare workers should receive top priority, says Sema Sgaier of the Surgo Foundation. That nonprofit group works on vaccine distribution issues.
An expert panel advising the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is also considering giving first dibs to workers in essential industries, people with certain medical conditions, and people age 65 and older.
Giving priority to those who need the vaccine most is commendable. The intention parallels the biblical admonition to “rescue the weak and needy.” (Psalm 82:4)
Once a vaccine gets a green light from the Food and Drug Administration, the panel will look at clinical trial data on side effects. It will consider how people of various ages, ethnicities, and health statuses respond to the drug. That information will determine the panel’s recommendations to the CDC on how to select who gets the vaccine when.
State officials are expected to follow the CDC’s guidance as they distribute the first vaccines.
Vaccine supplies will be limited at first. There won’t be enough to protect everyone, yet getting the shots to the right people could change the course of the pandemic.
Many other questions about distribution remain unanswered, Sgaier notes, such as whether to distribute shots equally across the country, or to focus on areas that are hot spots.
How do you think decisions should be made about distributing a vaccine?
(Questions remain about who will be the first to get COVID-19 vaccines. AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin)