Drug manufacturers seem to be making great progress in the search for an effective vaccine for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease. Phase 2 studies are reporting vaccine candidates are 90% to 95% effective in preventing infections. Assuming no major problems arise in manufacturing, the remaining major issues for protecting the population are distribution and allocation of doses.
I’ve heard news reports about who should receive a vaccine first but haven’t read anything listing an order. The consensus seems to be that medical personnel and first responders to be vaccinated first. That seems right. This group has the most exposure to those who are infected and could be a source of spread. They also deserve protection because they are the only ones who posses the skills to treat people who get sick.
While there are no doubt well-thought through plans on the order in which the vaccine should be made available to various groups of people, as a layman, I thought it would be interesting to try to identify the groups I thought should get priority and to hear the thoughts of readers, too.
My “Off The Top of the Head” List
- Medical personnel/first responders. I’ve heard that current plans are for medical personnel and first responders to be vaccinated first. That seems right. This group has the most exposure to those who are infected and could be a source of spread to vulnerable groups if they become infected. They also deserve protection because they are the only ones who posses the skills to treat people who get sick.
- Elderly patients in nursing homes. They are some of the most vulnerable and it has been months since many of them have been able to have in person contact with family.
- Seniors with pre-existing conditions. These people are another group particularly susceptible to serious illness from an infection. I’d suggest an arbitrary eligibility for this group is age 65 or older.
- Essential workers who deal with the public. This group includes people like bus drivers, teachers, and restaurant workers, customer facing airline and hotel employees among others.
- People with preexisting conditions not covered above.
- Everyone else.
(I think I should be congratulated for not giving in to my urge to put travel-starved bloggers at the top of the list.) 😊
There could be special exceptions. For example, should athletes get special treatment? Professional and amateur sports could return to normal schedules if athletes and support staff are presumed to be immune to the disease. But sports programs especially professional leagues like the NFL, NBA and NHL have the funds and organizational discipline to remain safe without a vaccine. It would be harder for colleges and other amateur athletes to remain safe without a vaccine.
Speaking of colleges. Does it make sense to make it a priority to vaccinate college students because they may be prone to spread the virus?
Allocating Coronavirus Vaccines Among Countries
When vaccines are available, they will be in high demand everywhere. Countries that invested in the development of a vaccine will have a good argument that they should be at the top of the list for its distribution. That may have even be a condition of providing the support. Some buyers may be willing to pay a high price. Companies will be tempted to sell to them first unless governments prevent it.
On the other hand, the fairest way might be to distribute vaccines first to whichever countries need it the most. Ironically, those countries would likely be the countries in North America and Europe where the virus is currently running rampant. But spread may be out of control in those countries solely because they didn’t bite the bullet and take the appropriate steps that other countries did.
Once someone is vaccinated, it would be nice if they were entered into a database and received a card or certificate showing that they have had the shots. That database or verification document could qualify the holders to travel freely domestically and internationally. It would seem appropriate, though that those who have been vaccinated should still comply with all or most other restrictions applicable to the general public.
On what basis would you allocate vaccine doses? Which groups should get priority in your view? Thanks for your thoughts. Let’s all stay safe for a few more months until vaccines are available.