U.S. officials from Operation Warp Speed, the government’s program to rapidly develop and deliver COVID-19 vaccines, have announced that once a vaccine is approved by the FDA, the first 6.4 million doses will be allocated based on the total number of adults in each state. This is a departure from the program’s earlier plans, which included distributing vaccines to states based on the number of high-risk individuals such as health care workers, factory workers, and nursing home residents.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has been developing guidelines for allocating vaccines to high-risk groups first. The federal government’s new decision to allocate doses based on population without waiting for these guidelines to be completed downplays the committee’s role in federal plans for distributing vaccines.
“We wanted to keep this simple,” Alex Azar, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, told NPR at a media briefing. “We thought it would be the fairest approach, and the most consistent.”
Gen. Gustave Perna, head of logistics for Operation Warp Speed, said that this way, “states could prioritize based on [the number of doses they receive].”
The FDA has scheduled a meeting later in December to review the application for the COVID-19 vaccine co-developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. If it is approved, the government plans to begin distributing vaccines in mid-December.