By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory panel voted Tuesday to recommend health care workers and patients in long-term care facilities be first to receive COVID-19 vaccines.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices' 13-1 vote comes a little over a week before the Food and Drug Administration is expected to formally consider an emergency use authorization for the first of two vaccine candidates. A second candidate is expected to follow about a week thereafter, according to health officials.
The recommendations will now be sent to CDC Director Robert Redfield whose approval would make them the health authority's official guidance. Redfield quickly tweeted a message identical to a post from the CDC's official account announcing the recommendations in a possible sign of agreement.
The CDC says ensuring health care workers have early access to the vaccine is critical because "ensuring the health and safety of this essential workforce of approximately 21 million people, protecting not only them but also their patients, communities, and the broader health of our country."
The centers further define long-term care facilities as those that provide "a variety of services, both medical and personal care, to people who are unable to live independently."
That includes elderly care facilities, which have been particularly hard-hit during the pandemic.
Vanderbilt University's Dr. Helen Talbot was the sole dissenting vote from the panel. She said during the meeting that she was concerned the vaccines have not been thoroughly studied with patients of long-term care facilities.
"We hope it works and we hope it's safe. That concerns me on many levels," Talbot said, according to CNN.
Still, committee chair Dr. Jose Romero, defended the proposal, saying the group is highly vulnerable to COVID-19.
"I believe my vote represents maximum benefit, minimum harm, promoting justice and mitigating ... health inequalities," he said, according to CNN.