NEWARK, Delaware (WPVI) -- Health care workers and nursing home residents should be at the front of the line when the first coronavirus vaccine shots become available, an influential government advisory panel said Tuesday.
The panel voted 13-1 to recommend priority be given to those groups in the first days of any coming vaccination program, when doses are expected to be very limited. The two groups encompass about 24 million Americans out of a U.S. population of about 330 million.
A Delaware hospital will play a leading role in administering the vaccine to the region.
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Ten freezers just arrived at ChristianaCare in Newark this week and will be able to house the coronavirus vaccine in temperatures as low as -94 degrees.
"A lot of it right now is around prioritization, figuring out who's even interested in getting a vaccine," said Dr. Marci Drees, the chief infection prevention officer and hospital epidemiologist for ChristianaCare. "We have a different team working on: what will the distribution be, how will we get it across state?"
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet again at some point to decide who should be next in line. Among the possibilities: teachers, police, firefighters and workers in other essential fields such as food production and transportation; the elderly; and people with underlying medical conditions.
Tuesday's action merely designated who should get shots first if a safe and effective vaccine becomes available. The panel did not endorse any particular vaccine. Panel members are waiting to hear FDA's evaluation and to see more safety and efficacy data before endorsing any particular product.
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Experts say the vaccine will probably not become widely available in the U.S. until the spring, but some are skeptical.
"That's great for the people that want it," said Veronica Badillo, who is a consultant for a primary care facility. "I have concerns about how quickly the vaccine was developed. Typically a vaccine can take many, many years."
Others are hopeful.
"I think it's awesome we're helping our health care workers," said Newark resident Danyelle Gregory.
Health care workers and nursing home residents make up about 24 million people of the U.S. population and would require getting two doses.
States are not required to follow the panel's recommendations, but they typically do. Governors will essentially have the final say.