While we’re still waiting on a comprehensive COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security released an ethics framework Wednesday for who it says should be prioritized.
There are two tiers of groups it says should go before the general public.
No surprise, the first tier includes front line health care workers taking care of coronavirus patients, people over 65, those with underlying health conditions and their caregivers.
Also noted are people who work in the vaccine industry and those who will be administering them. Also, school, food supply and public transportation workers.
One issue with that first tier is that's a lot of people, more than 90 million by some estimates.
“So, it’s quite possible when a vaccine is available, there won’t be enough available for everybody in this top tier and so there may need to be prioritization within this top tier,” said Dr. Eric Toner, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
The second-tier group includes other health care workers, people living in remote locations without access to quality care, and other essential workers like delivery, military, and first responders.
It also includes people who live in places where they can’t socially distance, so inmates and people in shelters.
The framework also mentions this is a decision that shouldn't only be made by experts and officials.
“The public needs an opportunity to weigh in on this because, after all, they are the ones who are the recipients of the vaccines and whether they get it or not,” said Toner.
The good news is the scholars don't see cost as a barrier to the vaccine. And while a vaccine is the best hope for controlling the pandemic, it will not be a magic bullet right away.
“If we have a vaccine sometime this winter that’s authorized, it will be many months before everybody has access to it,” said Toner.
Some decisions about who gets the vaccine first can't be made until one is ready, because you need to know how it may impact groups like the elderly or pregnant women.