US President-elect Joe Biden will let health experts decide who will get a COVID-19 vaccine in the country first, according to Dr. Celine Gounder, a member of his coronavirus advisory board.
Since the risk for COVID-19 can vary among different groups of people, prioritisation for a vaccine will be tricky, and Biden will leave those decisions to health experts, the Indian-American infectious disease physician said.
It is expected that there will likely be a limited supply of coronavirus vaccine doses available immediately after a vaccine is authorised by the US Food and Drug Administration.
"Other than health care workers, others who will be first in line to get it will be people who do have chronic underlying medical conditions who are older, as well as communities of colour who have been disproportionately impacted by this pandemic," Gounder told CNN on Friday.
The country's death toll since the pandemic's start is now more than 264,000. And nearly another 60,000 people could lose their lives over the next three weeks, according to an ensemble forecast published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this week.
"Now among those groups is where it starts to get a little bit more contentious," she added. "How do you prioritise between the 85-year-old woman in a nursing home, versus the 65-year-old African American -- especially when that 65-year-old may be as just as high-risk of significant disease?"
The CDC's Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP) will recommend groups to receive the vaccine first.
"That's where it gets a bit more political and frankly, this is where the President-elect is leaving it to the public health experts and scientists to figure out how best to allocate the limited supply first," said Gounder, who was named by Biden earlier this month to his coronavirus advisory board.
The ACIP called an emergency meeting for December 1, where they will vote on the very first group to get a vaccine.
"Because we know that the vaccine will be available in very limited doses, even if they prioritise health care workers and older people in their population, it's going to be really important to be a little more granular," said Rick Bright, another member of Biden's coronavirus advisory board.
"They're going to discuss that granularity in health care workers. If I only have so many doses available, how do I prioritise those health care workers first and make those recommendations to the states?" he said.
Typically, the ACIP meets after a vaccine is authorised by the FDA to make recommendations, but they are working proactively in anticipation of a quick decision by the FDA, the report said.
"We foresee imminent authorisation 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," ACIP chair Dr. Jose Romero told CNN.
US pharmaceutical major Pfizer has applied to the FDA for emergency use authorisation for its vaccine. An independent panel of experts, the FDA's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, is slated to meet on December 10 to discuss the application, the report said.
FDA officials say a decision should be made within a few weeks of the meeting and possibly much sooner.
The US on Friday marked the 25th day in a row with more than 100,000 new cases. Hospitalisations hit a new high on Thursday -- for the 17th consecutive day -- with more than 90,400 COVID-19 patients nationwide, according to the COVID Tracking Project.