CDC panel makes its recommendation for who should get COVID-19 vaccines first

ATLANTA — An advisory panel with the Atlanta-based CDC voted 13-1 to recommend that healthcare workers and long-term nursing home residents receive the COVID-19 vaccine first when it becomes available.

Channel 2′s Tyisha Fernandes has been following the panel’s meeting throughout the afternoon Tuesday.

The recommendation was made by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). The panel of experts recommends who to vaccinate and when. It’s the advice that the government almost always follows.

Ann Miller is a 90-year-old resident at a Lawrenceville nursing home. Her son told Fernandes he is worried about her because 40% of all COVID-19 related deaths can be linked back to a long-term care facility.

“I feel like the front care workers, the people that’s out there doing the work, taking care of my mom, the people out there that’s responding for us. I believe they should be the first ones to get it,” Willie Miller said.

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Two pharmaceutical companies have requested emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so they can begin to distribute the vaccine.

Pfizer said new test results show its coronavirus vaccine is 95% effective. Moderna said the vaccine it worked on at Emory University is more than 94% effective at preventing the virus.

One person on the panel voted against prioritizing a vaccine for long-term care resident. She said people in nursing homes haven’t been studied enough during vaccine trials.

“As we enter this realm, I hope it works, and I hope it’s safe,” said Dr. Helen Talbot with Vanderbilt University. “That concerns me on many levels.”

But the other 13 people on the panel voted to include them because of the high death rate.

“With the disproportionate share of deaths in people who live in long term care facilities, I believe it’s important they be included as well,” said Dr. Katherine A. Poehling with Wake Forest University.

There is less concern with vaccinating health care workers. A CDC report estimates there are 21 million of them who should be prioritized to help battle the pandemic.

“I feel very strongly we must vaccinate our health care workers that they can remain healthy and uninfected, so they can provide care for the entire population,” said Dr. Pablo Sanchez with Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

The CDC report says hospitals and facilities “should consider staggering vaccination” of staff in case of serious vaccine side effects.

Health officials say getting a vaccine out to the right people is important and so is making sure there’s a system to report any problems.