A CDC panel on Tuesday reportedly voted 13-1 during an advisory committee meeting to give health care workers and long-term care facility residents the first COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available for public use, CNBC reported. The CDC has yet to make an official statement confirming the news.
Health care workers are defined as paid and unpaid people who work in health care settings and could be exposed indirectly or directly to COVID-19-positive patients or infectious materials. Long-term care facility residents include adults who cannot live independently or adults who live in facilities where they receive medical and personal care.
With around 21 million health care workers in the US, it would take three weeks for most US states to vaccinate all such workers, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told CNBC.
However, during the Tuesday meeting, CDC officials noted the fact that there is no data on how pregnant women respond to the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, the two vaccine candidates that are expected to receive Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval later this month. According to a presentation given during the CDC meeting, around 75% of health care workers are women, and 330,000 of them are pregnant. Officials plan to issue guidance on pregnant women once the phase 3 trial data on the vaccines has been completely reviewed, CNBC reported.
In addition, officials said that health care facilities should prepare for workers taking time off from clinical care in the event that they experience symptoms after receiving the vaccine. Dr. Moncef Slaoui, who is leading the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed vaccine program, revealed that between 10% and 15% of people report side effects from the vaccines, which include symptoms such as redness and pain at the injection site in addition to fever, chills, muscle aches and headaches.
Medical experts have recommended that health care workers be the first to receive vaccine doses, followed by vulnerable people, which include the elderly, people with preexisting conditions and essential workers. Children and young adults are expected to receive vaccines last.
Although states are not required to follow the CDC’s guidance, it is a useful framework, Dr. Karen Landers, spokesperson for the Alabama Department of Public Health, recently told CNBC.
“This guidance will be extremely helpful because it will be science-based, and also will give us the framework to be able to ensure that our guidelines are consistent with what is recommended by support staff,” she said.
Earlier this month, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told CNBC that around 40 million doses of the vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer will be available by the end of the year, which is enough to inoculate about 20 million people, since both vaccines require two doses.
The latest meeting comes as states prepare to distribute a vaccine in just a couple of weeks. Both Moderna and Pfizer have completed phase 3 clinical trials of their vaccines and have applied for emergency approval for their drugs from the FDA.
While Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech requested emergency use authorization for their vaccine candidate from the FDA earlier this month after finding the drug to be 95% effective against the virus, Moderna, which has developed a vaccine that is 94% effective in preventing COVID-19, announced it had filed for emergency FDA authorization on Monday.
The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee is slated to hold meetings this month to evaluate both vaccine candidates.