Dec 05, 2020 08:05 UTC
  • First US delivery of COVID-19 vaccine will leave out high-risk workers

The US government’s first shipment of millions of coronavirus vaccine doses to be divided among states and federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, will fall far short of protecting high priority groups such as healthcare workers, a Reuters analysis has found.

Across the country, state health departments are preparing local hospitals for the first shipments of Pfizer Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine if the US Food and Drug Administration authorizes it, possibly as early as mid-December.

The first shipment is expected to cover inoculations of 3.2 million people, nowhere near enough for the 21 million US healthcare workers. And government officials said initial shipments would also go to five government agencies including the Departments of Defense, State and the Veterans Health Administration.

The subsequent two weekly vaccine distributions could cover 7 to 10 million people a week, provided a second vaccine - from Moderna Inc - is authorized early in the second half of December, and Pfizer meets its distribution estimates, according to data provided by Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the companies. Federal officials have not disclosed exactly how many doses will be in later shipments.

States have the final word on how to distribute vaccines to their citizens, but federal officials have said that of some 330 million US residents, healthcare workers and those in nursing homes should be considered first for vaccines. Many states told Reuters that was their plan.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) did not respond to a request to comment. The Pentagon declined to comment. HHS cited public comments from a Tuesday press call, in which officials said the first dose allocation will be the start of a steady stream of vaccine deliveries.