The first doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the U.S. in December, less than a year after news of the viral outbreak first leaked out of China. Now, with multiple vaccines earning FDA approval, many Americans are wondering when the vaccine will be available to them. This is a fluid and complicated situation, but here is a summary of what we know as of early January.
The Centers for Disease Control’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has proposed a four-phase vaccine rollout.
In Phase 1, America’s 21 million health care workers would receive the vaccine first, along with elderly people who live in long-term care facilities. These two groups of people have already started to receive the vaccine. An ICU nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, New York City was among the first to receive it, on December 14. The vaccine administered to these groups requires two separate shots 21 days apart, so the second batch of vaccines, to be delivered in January, will be used to provide the second shots.
Phase 1(b), likely beginning in February, would include approximately 87 million essential workers, along with people over the age of 65 and those with medical conditions that put them at serious risk of death if infected with COVID-19. Again, two doses are required, so it will take roughly two months for this group to be fully vaccinated. It will be up to each state to decide which industries’ workers to prioritize.
Phase 2 vaccinations could begin in April. Eligibility for Phase 2 has not yet been decided but may include teachers, childcare workers, retail workers and transportation workers. It may also include people in homeless shelters. There is some disagreement among scientists as to whether Phase 2 will be ready in April. Some say a May-to-June timeframe is more realistic.
Healthy adults and children would need to wait until Phase 3, which could be anywhere between May and late summer, depending on how the earlier phases progress in terms of vaccine supply and distribution. Phase 4 would include anyone not vaccinated in the earlier phases.
Members of the 9/11 community, many of whom suffer from respiratory issues, cancers and other conditions making them especially vulnerable to COVID-19, would seem to belong in Phase 1(b). For this group, vaccinations could begin in February. The team at Barasch & McGarry is monitoring the development of the vaccine.