The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, a group that advises the CDC on when and who to vaccinate for various illnesses, meets Tuesday to vote on how the first COVID-19 vaccine doses should be distributed once approved.
Several groups of vaccine experts have recommended that coronavirus vaccines be given to health care workers, vulnerable groups, and essential workers first. In an agenda released Friday, ACIP will consider the allocation of initial COVID-19 vaccine supplies, the groups that should be included in “Phase 1a” of the rollout, and safety monitoring after vaccines are approved, , according to The Associated Press..
“We are meeting because the FDA and Operation Warp Speed have asked states and other jurisdictions to please submit their plans on Friday of this coming week,” Jose Romero, MD, the ACIP chair and secretary of health for the Arkansas Department of Health, told CNN.
“We foresee imminent authorization if this vaccine is shown to be effective and safe in the near future and we want to be at the point where we are providing appropriate guidance to the states and jurisdictions for the use of these vaccines,” he said.
Pfizer and BioNTech have applied for emergency use authorization from the FDA, and Moderna is expected to seek emergency use approval soon. An FDA advisory committee is slated to meet on Dec. 10 to review Pfizer’s application and send a recommendation to the FDA, the AP reported.
Once a vaccine receives emergency approval, manufacturers can begin distributing doses of the limited supply that has already been created, the AP reported. The first doses will go to the groups that the ACIP recommends, and manufacturers will begin scaling up production so tens of millions of people can receive vaccines each month in 2021.
ACIP met on Monday to discuss the priority groups who should receive a vaccine under emergency use, CNN reported, and the CDC has already recommended that “Phase 1a” should include health care workers and nursing home residents.
“We are simply going over the data once again and having a vote primarily on the first-tier group 1a — healthcare providers and the people in the long-term, congregate facilities,” Romero said.
Tuesday’s meeting is public and will be livestreamed, and ACIP will take a public vote. The group typically only meets three times a year to consider vaccine schedules but has scheduled additional meetings to consider COVID-19 vaccines, CNN reported.
On Friday, United Airlines began operating charter flights to get doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine into position and ready for distribution once the FDA issues an emergency use authorization, according to The Wall Street Journal.
United is flying the doses between the Brussels International Airport and Chicago O’Hare International Airport for the “first mass air shipment of a vaccine,” the newspaper reported. The airline is allowed to carry 15,000 pounds of dry ice per flight, which is five times the amount usually permitted.
The Pfizer vaccine must be stored at -70 degrees Celsius and below, which has raised questions around COVID-19 vaccine storage and distribution. Pfizer has storage capacity at distributions sites in Wisconsin and Germany, where the company will ship vaccines in “suitcase-sized” frozen storage in cargo planes and trucks.
Other cargo flights and passenger airlines are preparing for future vaccine shipments as well, the newspaper reported.