Coronavirus vaccine should go to health care workers, long term care facilities first, CDC panel recommends

The recommendations now must be approved by CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield

A panel of independent experts advising the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in a public meeting on Tuesday voted that health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities will be the first to receive the long-awaited coronavirus vaccine. 

The vote was 13-1. 

The recommendations now must be approved by CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield before the vaccine can be distributed to states and ultimately to the groups part of the Phase 1A distribution plans. 

The plan to distribute the vaccine to health care workers and long-term care residents is also dependent on authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which still has to approve an application of emergency use from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, the first to apply, and biotech company Moderna. Both companies have developed coronavirus vaccine candidates that have proven over 90% effective in late-stage clinical trials. 

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Following FDA approval, the first Americans could receive the jab as early as this month.

There are roughly 21 million health care workers and some 3 million long-term care facility residents in the U.S., according to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), the CDC's independent vaccine advisory committee. 

"To date, more than 240,000 healthcare workers have contracted COVID-19 and 858 have died. According to estimates, deaths in long-term care facilities account for 40 percent of all COVID-19 deaths nationwide. These factors contributed to the committee’s recommendation to prevent spread by protecting those on the front lines, healthcare workers treating COVID-19 patients, and protect the most vulnerable, those elderly persons living in long-term care facilities," the CDC told Fox News in an emailed statement following the vote. 

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"The committee intends to meet again following [the FDA] authorization or approval for vaccine-specific recommendations," the statement added. 

States are not required to follow the CDC's recommendations; the recommendations simply provide a framework. However, most states are expected to follow the recommendations, one expert said.

Moderna, the latest contender to announce the filing of emergency use authorization (EUA) for its coronavirus vaccine, said on Monday that it expects to have 20 million doses of its vaccine available in the U.S. by the end of the year, adding that it "remains on track to manufacture 500 million to 1 billion doses globally in 2021."

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Pfizer, meanwhile, has previously said it expects to produce up to 50 million doses in 2020, and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021.

The news comes as Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said on Monday that a decision on Moderna’s application for EUA will likely be made days or up to a week after Pfizer’s is considered on Dec. 10.

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Azar added that the vaccines will “ship 24 hours after authorization,” meaning the country is potentially on track to see a vaccine distributed before Christmas.

Fox News' Alexandria Hein contributed to this report. 

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