By Peter Loftus and Jared S. Hopkins 

A federal vaccine advisory panel recommend that health-care workers and residents of long-term care facilities be the first to receive any Covid-19 vaccine doses from the limited supply that will be available initially.

The recommendations approved in a 13-1 vote Tuesday by the panel, which advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, apply to about 21 million health-care workers and three million residents of long-term care facilities.

Federal officials have said they expect there will be about 40 million doses available in December. The initial vaccines available are given in two doses three or four weeks apart, so there may be enough for 20 million people to be vaccinated in the early weeks. Supplies are expected to increase during 2021.

U.S. health regulators are expected to decide in the coming weeks whether to authorize the emergency use of two Covid-19 vaccines, one from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE and another from Moderna Inc. The companies have been manufacturing doses but it could take several months to make enough to vaccinate the broader population.

The CDC usually follows the recommendation of its advisory panel, and its decision is expected by the time any inoculations are authorized. States, which ultimately will decide how to allocate Covid-19 vaccine supplies, have been waiting for the recommendations. States have until Friday to indicate to the federal government where they want their initial doses sent.

The CDC panel, an outside group of medical experts known as the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, held an emergency meeting Tuesday to consider how to prioritize which groups are most in need of receiving the initial doses.

"We see a growing number of health-care providers that have become infected and some of which, unfortunately, have passed away," said committee chairman José Romero. "We see individuals living in long-term care facilities are at exceptional risk for mortality and morbidity due to the virus and disease."

Other high-risk populations, including essential workers such as teachers and police, adults with underlying health conditions and people ages 65 and over who aren't in communal settings, are expected to be next in line, although the panel didn't set recommendations for them yet.

Votes on the order of priority for them would probably come later, after U.S. regulators authorize each vaccine and more clinical trial data becomes available.

Health experts have long expected that ACIP would recommend that doctors, nurses and other health workers taking care of Covid-19 patients get first dibs. A special National Academy of Medicine committee gave similar guidance. Adding residents of long-term care facilities represents a compromise with some federal health officials advocating for those most vulnerable to Covid-19, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Still, the expected limited supply means there may not be enough even for all health-care workers and long-term care residents in the early days of vaccination. So facilities will need to further prioritize who among their staff and residents should get shots in the early days.

CDC staffers who briefed the advisory panel Tuesday said skilled nursing sites should be given priority among long-term care facilities because they house the most medically vulnerable residents. Among health-care workers, those in direct contact with sick patients and infectious materials should get priority over others, said Dr. Sara Oliver, a CDC officer who is working with the committee.

Hospitals and other health facilities also must consider the vaccines' side effects when scheduling immunizations. In studies, people receiving Pfizer's and Moderna's vaccines experienced symptoms like fever and headache, which were more intense after the second doses. CDC officials said health facilities should avoid vaccinating all of their workers at once, and instead stagger them in case workers have to miss work for a day or two if they experience side effects.

Betsy McKay contributed to this article.

Write to Peter Loftus at peter.loftus@wsj.com and Jared S. Hopkins at jared.hopkins@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 01, 2020 18:52 ET (23:52 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA)
Historical Stock Chart
From Dec 2020 to Jan 2021 Click Here for more Moderna Charts.
Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA)
Historical Stock Chart
From Jan 2020 to Jan 2021 Click Here for more Moderna Charts.