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COVID-19 Vaccine Prioritization Phases and Approvals

Posted by Mike Rigert on Jan 27, 2021 10:00:00 AM

The situation is changing so rapidly when it comes to America’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution and prioritization strategy that if you blink, you might miss something important.

On Jan. 12, the Trump administration announced it would distribute nearly all the vaccine supply as it becomes available essentially doubling the supply rather than holding back half the inventory for second doses as originally planned. The impetus was to speed up the vaccine rollout process since some doses were sitting on shelves rather than being dispensed to patients due to local logistics issues. The administration said that the vaccines’ manufacturing is robust enough that it can ensure that second doses will be available from ongoing increased production of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

The federal government is also urging states to immediately start vaccinating groups that were lower down on the priority scale, including those people age 65 and older and younger people were underlying health conditions.

The following outlines the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendations for the states’ prioritization of distributed COVID-19 vaccine supplies. It also includes information on which vaccines received emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and which pharmaceutical companies’ candidate vaccines may soon receive authorization for emergency distribution.

Understanding Initial COVID-19 Vaccination Phases

Because of the U.S. supply of COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be limited at first, the CDC is providing recommendations to federal, state, and local governments about who should be vaccinated first.

While the CDC makes recommendations for who should be offered the COVID-19 vaccine first, each state has its own plan for deciding who will be vaccinated first and how they can receive vaccines.

Please contact your local health department for more information on the COVID-19 vaccination in your area.

Phase 1A

Healthcare personnel

By providing critical care to those who are or might be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, healthcare personnel have a high risk of being exposed to and getting sick with COVID-19. If they’re sick, healthcare personnel are not able to work and provide key services to patients. They can also spread the virus to those they’re caring for, including hospitalized patients and residents of long-term care facilities.

Long-term care facility residents

Making sure long-term care facility residents receive the COVID-19 vaccination as soon as vaccines are available will help save the lives of those who are most at risk of dying from COVID-19.

Phase 1B

Frontline essential workers

Frontline essential workers include firefighters, police officers, corrections officers, food and agricultural workers, U.S. Postal Service workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, public transit worker, and those in the educational sector.

People aged 75 years and older

People aged 75 years and older are at high risk of hospitalization, illness, and death from COVID-19.

Phase 1C

People aged 65-74 years

People aged 65 to 74 years are also at high risk of hospitalization, illness and death from COVID-19.

People aged 16 to 64 years with underlying medical conditions

People aged 16 to 64 years with underlying medical conditions can have increased risk of serious life-threatening complications from COVID-19.

Other Essential Workers

Other essential workers include those who work in transportation and logistics, food service, housing construction and finance, information technology, communications, energy, law, media, public safety, and public health.

Future Phases

As vaccine availability increases, vaccination recommendations will expand to include more groups. The goal is for everyone to be able to easily get a COVID-19 vaccination as soon as large enough quantities of vaccine are available.

Approved COVID-19 Vaccines

Vaccine Types

Currently, there are three main types of COVID-19 vaccines that are or soon will be undergoing large-scale (Phase 3) clinical trials in the U.S. None of these vaccines can give you COVID-19:

  • mRNA
  • Protein subunit
  • Vector

Authorized and Recommended Vaccines

As COVID-19 vaccines are authorized and then recommended in the U.S., it will be important to understand what is known about each vaccine. Currently, two vaccines are authorized and recommended to prevent COVID-19:

  • Pfizer-BioNTech
  • Moderna

Both vaccines are mRNA based have about 95 percent efficacy and the second dose is administered roughly a month after the first dose. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine does require special medical-grade freezers for storage and is available to people ages 16 and up. The Moderna vaccine does not have the special freezing requirement and is available to people ages 18 and up.

Vaccines in Phase 3 Clinical Trials

As of Dec. 28, 2020, large-scale (Phase 3) clinical trials are in progress or being planned for three COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S.:

  • AstraZeneca
  • Janssen (Johnson & Johnson)
  • Novavax

Safety of COVID-19 Vaccines

The FDA has granted emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Both have been shown to be safe and effective as determined by data from the manufacturers and findings from large clinical trials. The data demonstrates that the known and potential benefits of these vaccines outweigh the known and potential harms of becoming infected with COVID-19.

To stay vigilant, healthcare organizations need to stay abreast of the latest changes in vaccine prioritization and distribution to be better prepared to vaccinate their patients and staff. Continue to tune in to regular installments of the SR Health blog for the newest updates and changes.

To download a Word file document of the COVID-19 Vaccine Prioritization and Approved Vaccines from the CDC, click here.

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Mike Rigert

Written by Mike Rigert