When the COVID-19 vaccination program starts, the first people to be vaccinated should be health care workers and nursing home residents, an influential federal advisory panel has recommended. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which advises the CDC, voted 13-1 in favor of giving the first doses to 21 million health care workers and 3 million residents and staff at long-term care facilities, Washington Post reports. The FDA is expected to grant emergency use authorization to vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna within weeks, but supply will be extremely limited early on. The panel had been planning to wait until a vaccine was approved before making recommendations, but they decided to act ahead of a Friday deadline for states to place orders for the Pfizer vaccine.
Some panel members—including Vanderbilt University associate professor of medicine Helen Keipp Talbot, the sole dissenter—said they had concerns about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines on fragile residents of long-term facilities, the AP reports. Talbot also warned that public trust in the vaccine might be eroded when vaccinated nursing home residents died of unrelated causes. "I think you're going to have a very striking backlash of, 'My grandmother got the vaccine and she passed away,'" Talbot said, per NPR. "They're not likely to be related, but that will become remembered." The panel's recommendations, which states will use for guidance. will now be sent to CDC Director Robert Redfield for final approval. (Read more coronavirus vaccine stories.)