Q: I really want my grandmother to get a COVID-19 vaccine. When will it be available for her?
A: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Defense have partnered up and created Operation Warp Speed to help make and dispense millions of vaccines for COVID-19 as fast as possible. The CDC stated that the first supply should be available before the end of 2020, and the Department of HHS stated that Operation Warp Speed’s goal is to produce and deliver 300 million doses with the initial doses available by January 2021. The federal government has invested in multiple manufacturers in hope to increase the initial availability of the COVID-19 vaccine. However, once the vaccine first becomes available, there may not be enough for everyone in the United States to receive it. Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the chief scientific adviser for Operation Warp Speed, said the FDA would likely grant emergency-use approval in mid-December for distribution of the vaccine produced by Pfizer Inc and partner BioNTech. Per Dr. Slaoui, the vaccine will start to distribute throughout the U.S. within 24 hours of approval. Once emergency-use approval is given, Dr. Slaoui said, the CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will vote on whether to recommend the vaccine and, if so, who should receive it. Additionally, ACIP is considering four groups to recommend for early COVID-19 vaccination if supply is limited. The groups are healthcare personnel, workers in essential and critical industries, people at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness due to underlying medical conditions, and people 65 years and older. Also, if there is a limited supply, multiple phases have been recommended on how to prioritize the different population groups in receiving the vaccine. Per the CDC, phase 1a will consist of paid and unpaid persons in healthcare settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious material and are unable to work from home. Phase 1b will consist of other essential workers and people at higher risk of COVID-19 due to underlying medical conditions or being 65 years and older. Phase 2 will include the remainder of the phase 1 population, critical populations, and the general population. Phase 3 will consist of anyone from the previous populations that still wish to be vaccinated and have not yet been. The CDC website has more information on the specifics of who is included in these groups. Supplies will increase over time, and everyone should be able to get vaccinated later in 2021. This question was answered by pharmacy student, Niki Mikovilje.
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