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Coronavirus: CDC Advisers Vote To Recommend First Access To Vaccine Go To Health Care Workers, Long-Term Care Facility Residents

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel on Tuesday took a vote to recommend that health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities receive the first access to a coronavirus vaccine.

The final vote was 13-1.

The vote by the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices followed a meeting over Zoom on Tuesday afternoon, in which the advisers discussed procedures to identify and report any possible adverse effects from the vaccine – among other issues.

Health care workers and long-term care facility residents would receive the vaccine in Phase 1a once the vaccine is approved by the Food and Drug Administration. A proposal that has not yet been subjected to a vote calls for essential workers to receive the vaccine in Phase 1b, and people over 65 or with medical conditions that place them at high risk in Phase 1c.

The vote in favor came despite reservations from some advisers about providing first access to long-term care facility residents, due to a lack of vaccine safety and efficacy data in that group.

Dr. Susan R. Bailey, President of the American Medical Association, released the following statement with regard to the CDC advisers' recommendation:

"The American Medical Association (AMA) commends the Advisory Council on Immunization Practices (ACIP) for their efforts to ensure equitable allocation of COVID-19 vaccines as soon as they become available. We strongly support ACIP's evidence-based interim recommendation adopted today for phase 1a of the COVID-19 vaccine allocation process, which align with AMA's public health policy and Code of Medical Ethics. By first vaccinating our frontline health care personnel and residents of long-term care facilities against COVID-19, we will help ensure patients continue to receive vital care during the pandemic and safeguard those who are most at risk for severe illness and death associated with COVID-19.

"Given that COVID-19 vaccine supply won't initially be available to the entire population, ACIP's recommendations will be vital to prioritizing groups that should receive COVID-19 vaccine first to protect public health and reduce illness and death.

"The U.S. has a longstanding system for ensuring the safety and efficacy of vaccines. The AMA has long supported the vaccine recommendations of ACIP as the standard that physicians should follow when making decisions about vaccinating patients. The AMA serves as a liaison to ACIP and is represented on the COVID-19 work group, providing medical expertise and physician input for ACIP's consideration when making vaccine recommendations. We will continue to promote transparency in the COVID-19 vaccine development process to build public confidence in the use of authorized and recommended vaccine products."

Those who do not fall into a high-risk group may have to wait until late spring or even summer to get the vaccine.

Meanwhile, CBS News has learned when the government will begin distributing vaccines. Operation Warp Speed has marked Dec. 15 as the date for states to start receiving the Pfizer vaccine, while the Moderna vaccine would first become available a week later on Dec. 22.

Children will be left out of the first few rounds of vaccinations, pending further research.

Earlier Tuesday, Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said the first doses of a coronavirus vaccine, which will mostly likely go to health care workers in the city, will be given very soon.

"I want you to know that we are ready to accept whatever amount of vaccine we receive. We have plans that will start with all 37 Chicago hospitals, receiving vaccine for healthcare workers, not yet for patients," Arwady said. "And we have planned for all 128 long term care facilities in Chicago, that would include both skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities."

It's estimated that the city will get anywhere from 20,000-25,000 doses.

"We can't be sure about any of this until the federal government makes that emergency use authorization, and then the recommendation for vaccine. So I think it is likely that we will be vaccinating here in Chicago, probably the third week of December, possibly the fourth week of December again depending how the federal timeline plays out," Arwady said.

The city and state are expecting rolling shipments in the weeks that follow to give all first recipients a second shot and widen the net of who is next.

In Chicago, after health care workers are covered, the next batches are expected to go to long-term care facilities, and then those with underlying conditions, those over 65, and other essential workers.

That order could shuffle as the federal government weighs in on priority. But Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said the finish line feels close.

"We're close, so we need us all to hang in there for the the final stretch," Ezike said.

Arwady said the campaign rollout for people to be vaccinated will probably take a year.

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