Panel recommends first COVID-19 vaccines go to health care workers and nursing home residents


NASHVILLE, Tenn (WKRN) — As COVID-19 cases continue rising across the nation, healthcare workers are feeling fatigued.

Nurse Judy Mast works at Ascension Saint Thomas West hospital. She describes working in the intensive care unit during the pandemic like a “combat zone.”

“It’s beyond our means right now to take care of this. We’re taking care of it at the hospital, but the public needs to step up and help us out,” said Mast.

But there’s good news on the horizon for both doctors and patients as companies like Pfizer and Moderna race for FDA approval of their coronavirus vaccines.

Vanderbilt Dr. Helen Keipp Talbot said initially the supply will be limited so shots will be rationed in the early stages. But who gets them first?

“It’s a matter of prioritizing based on how well we know the vaccine works, what the side effects of a vaccine might be, and what are the ethics and implications on society and the economy. So, it’s rather complicated and a little nerve wracking,” said Dr. Talbot.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted 13 to 1, recommending that health care workers and nursing home residents be the first to receive the shots. The Associated Press said, when combined, those two groups of people make up about 24 million folks out of a U.S. population of about 330 million.

The AP also reports that roughly 20 million doses of a vaccine could be available by the end of the year.

Experts said the vaccine will probably won’t be widely available in the U.S. until the Spring. Until then, doctors and nurses are urging you to do what you can to slow the spread.

“I can’t beg and emphasize people enough to please, please wear your mask. Social distance. That’s your half of it, and we’ll pick up the slack on our end,” said Dr. Chris Cropsey with St. Thomas West.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet again at some point to decide who should be next in line after healthcare workers. Those possibilities include teachers, first responders, the elderly, people with underlying conditions, and other essential workers in fields like transportation and food production.

Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.


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