You’ve likely heard that some Americans have already started to receive Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccination. And while this is very encouraging, due to limited supply, currently only healthcare personnel and residents of long-term care facilities are included in the initial phase of the COVID-19 vaccination program. And now that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a second vaccine for emergency use (this one belonging to Moderna), we’ll all be able to get vaccinated very soon. However, until then, it’s only fair to wonder who is recommending these COVID-19 vaccines. And more importantly, how is it decided who goes to the front of the vaccination line?
Look no further than the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).
The ACIP is a committee of medical and public health experts whose work is published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These experts review all available data – including clinical trial information – to evaluate a vaccine’s safety and effectiveness. For example, the committee studies the age, race, ethnicity, and any underlying medical conditions of all those who take each vaccine candidate. They also track how different groups of people respond to the vaccine, including any side effects experienced. The committee’s findings are then used to make recommendations on how to best use vaccines to promote public health and minimize death and severe illness from infectious diseases in the U.S.
In addition to simply recommending whether a vaccine should be approved, the ACIP also makes suggestions concerning vaccination schedules and doses.
Recommendations and limited supply
When vaccine supply is limited, such as now with coronavirus, the ACIP uses the following four goals to decide who should receive early vaccine access:
- Limit death and serious disease as much as possible
- Keep society running as normal as possible
- Limit any extra hardship on people who already have hardship
- Increase the chance for everyone to enjoy health and well-being
In addition, the ACIP also is committed to promoting justice, which is why it always seeks to treat affected groups, populations, and communities fairly and make recommendations that are clear and understandable. For example, if a particular segment of the population faces an unfair, unjust, or avoidable barrier to getting a COVID-19 vaccination, the ACIP will try to remove or reduce it. The committee even holds open meetings and welcomes public input.
Healthcare personnel & long-term care residents
In recommending early vaccine access to health care personnel and residents of long-term care facilities, the ACIP’s reasoning was straightforward and logical. Because many health care workers are stationed on the front lines, caring for patients who may have COVID-19, they are at high risk of being exposed to – and getting sick with – COVID-19, and can easily spread the disease to their patients. These patients likely have medical conditions that increase their risk for severe COVID-19 illness. It’s a potentially vicious cycle that should be avoided.
The elderly who live in nursing homes are at the greatest risk of dying from COVID-19, so providing them with early vaccine access is simply a matter of saving lives. In fact, as of November, approximately 600,000 COVID-19 cases and 91,500 deaths were reported from residents of long-term care facilities and staff members, accounting for 39% of U.S. deaths.
So, you can take comfort in knowing that there’s not only light at the end of the tunnel but that the ACIP is standing watch, committed to ensuring we receive safe and effective COVID-19 vaccinations. In fact, it won’t be long before you’ll be able to walk into your local community pharmacy and get vaccinated.
Not sure where your closest community pharmacy is located? No problem – just visit www.prescribewellness.com, enter your zip code, and we’ll show you!