There's a "light at the end of the tunnel" says Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and nation's top infectious disease expert. With at least three coronavirus vaccines proving effective in trials, some will be distributed as soon as a few weeks; this very day, Moderna, one of the manufacturers, is applying for emergency FDA approval. And not a moment too soon: cases—and deaths—are surging across the nation.
But who will get the vaccine first? Fauci appeared on Meet the Press with host Chuck Todd yesterday to delineate who he thinks will get the jab initially—read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
Here's Who Will Get the Vaccine First, Says Dr. Fauci
Fauci had previously told MSNBC that "by the time we get into December, we'll be able to have doses available for people who are judged to be at the highest priority." In another interview with PBS, Fauci revealed that those "higher priority groups" would be determined "according to the recommendation of the CDC."
Per the CDC in addition to age, there are a number of underlying medical conditions that would deem an adult of any age to be at an increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19. These include cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies, immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant, obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 kg/m2 or higher but < 40 kg/m2), severe obesity (BMI ≥ 40 kg/m2), pregnancy, sickle cell disease, smoking, and type 2 diabetes mellitus.
According to the AP, an expert panel advising the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also considering giving high priority to workers in essential industries.
"I think certainly the healthcare workers are going to be among those," said Dr. Fauci, when Todd said he presumed they'd be in pole position. "I don't know exactly what the precise final decision is going to be. Certainly healthcare workers will be up there. There may be others. I don't know. As you know, on Tuesday, the advisory committee on immunization practices, either Tuesday or Wednesday, sometime early next week, I'm going to be coming in, meeting with the CDC and making those kinds of decisions," he said. "But if you look at the number of healthcare workers, obviously you're going to have to do it in a graded way. I mean, we don't have enough vaccines right now in the first, you know, in the last week or two or three of December to be able to get everybody who needs to. And that's the reason why, what happens is that a certain amount of vaccine gets shipped locally to the States. And then the final decision of how to do that properly will be left up to the States with strong recommendations from the CDC."
Dr. Fauci Said Those in Nursing Homes Would Need to be Prioritized
Todd then asked about specific groups of people. When would those in a senior facility or nursing home get the vaccine? "Again, I don't want to get ahead of the advisory committee, but I can tell you what likely will happen," said Fauci. "Certainly not definitive that people in nursing homes will likely be very high up there in that facility. You know, if you look at the number of people who are in what's called official nursing homes, there's about 1.5 million people. If you look at the people who are the staff, that staff, those official nursing homes, that's about another 1.5 million. So you probably have around 3 million people. I think you can get them protected reasonably soon, because obviously they're very vulnerable. And then you go down the list of people who are elderly with, or without underlying conditions. And you get the different priorities."
Kids Will Likely be the Last to Be Vaccinated
Todd then asked about kids. There haven't been many trials of the vaccine on them. "It's going to be months" longer before children will get vaccinated, said Todd. "And the reason is traditionally when you have a situation like a new vaccine, you want to make sure because children, as well as pregnant women, are vulnerable. So before you put it into the children, you're going to want to make sure you have a degree of efficacy and safety that is established in an adult population, particularly in adult normal population. Then there are ways to get children vaccine by let's say maybe in January and again—this is my estimate may not be exactly that—that you go ahead and you do what's called a phase one and a phase two-way trial in children. In other words, you find out, is it safe in children? And does it induce the kind of immune response that's comparable to that in adults, an immune response that you know, protects adults? And then what you could do is you can do a study—what's called a bridging study. You can say, okay, now we have safety in the children. We have comparable immunogenicity, namely the same type of immune response. We can get this expeditiously approved for the children before going through a, you know, 30,000 person trial that may take a longer period of time. So we're going to start the process very likely in January to get it to the children sooner, rather than later."
How to Survive the Pandemic Until the Vaccine Arrives
Healthy adults may be able to take the vaccine come April, Fauci predicted. Until then, "if you have a really good attention to the public health measures, I believe we can prevent the acceleration of that surge that we're seeing," says Dr. Fauci. So do things "like wearing masks, uniformly; keeping distance; avoiding crowds in congregate settings, particularly indoor; washing hands frequently" and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.