While federal and state officials agree that the nation’s 21 million health care workers should be first in line for the vaccine, there is no consensus about how to balance the needs of other high-risk groups. Azar said this week states will have the “final say” in prioritizing Covid vaccinations, and that the shots will be apportioned according to the size of adult populations. Siding with ACIP, California Gov. Gavin Newsom pledged that hard-hit “Black and brown communities disproportionately are benefited” in California’s prioritization plan.
Moncef Slaoui, the former GlaxoSmithKline executive who leads Operation Warp Speed, said there are no easy choices.
“I don’t expect the states to make uniform decisions,” he told POLITICO. “Some may prefer long-term care facilities or the elderly, while others may prioritize their health care workers. It would be wrong to immunize 18-year-olds first. I hope no one does that. But otherwise it’s shades of gray.”
Canada is taking into account public opinion preferences in its strategy, which suggests “Canadians prioritize those with underlying medical conditions and the elderly,” and also treating “household contacts of those at high-risk of severe illness and death” as potential priorities. The defense department is buying freezers to “store and transport” Covid-19 vaccines for its “military population.”
Xavier Bettel, prime minister of Luxembourg, said in an interview that the EU has a difficult starting position when it comes to Covid-19 vaccinations: “There is not one country where over 60 percent of people want to get vaccinated.”
However, a tug-of-war between Brussels-based EU institutions and national governments over how to source and deliver vaccines appears to have ended happily: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen confirmed this week that the EU has secured vaccines for 430 million people — enough for virtually every EU resident. It would have created a “nightmare” if the EU failed to coordinate distribution, Bettel said.
Among a series of priority measures, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said it will deploy the vaccine to “control active outbreaks.”
Germany’s Standing Committee on Vaccination recommends that prioritization be guided by “urgency of preventive health protection,” aiming to reduce cases most likely to lead to hospitalization or death, and to ensure “maintenance of essential state functions and public life,” which includes police, firefighters and teachers, in addition to healthcare workers.
The U.K.’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has an 11-step order of priority. After healthcare workers, the priorities are older adults in care homes, then older Britons, starting with the eldest and descending in 5-year age brackets.