At emergency meeting, ACIP members could decide who gets first dibs on COVID-19 vaccine

Despite expectations that CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) would make its COVID-19 vaccine allocation recommendations once one or more vaccines received FDA emergency use authorization (EUA)—the traditional timeline—the group will vote Tuesday, December 1, on a “Phase 1a” distribution strategy. ACIP convened the 2:00 pm ET December 1 emergency meeting to ensure its advice is available before FDA approves any EUAs; the agency is slated to consider the first application on December 10. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has said that Operation Warp Speed will begin shipping COVID-19 vaccines to states within 24 hours of their approval. 

The meeting had not yet begun at time of writing. 

In Phase 1a, the populations deemed most vulnerable to the virus, or most critical to efforts to fight it, will get priority access to the vaccine. On Tuesday, November 23, 2020, ACIP met to lay out a potential Phase 1a distribution strategy, with members agreeing that health care workers and long-term-care (LTC) facilities should be first in line for FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines; this is likely to be formalized at the December 1 meeting. Stephan L. Foster, PharmD, FAPhA, APhA's ACIP representative, said that pharmacists will be among the health care providers recommended by ACIP to receive Phase 1a access to the vaccine, if the group votes as expected. 

The vote is not binding, however—Azar has said that ACIP’s advice will not necessarily dictate how COVID-19 vaccines are distributed and to whom. Those decisions, he said, are up each state’s governor, though ACIP’s vote will probably affect state plans. Furthermore, the size of any vaccine’s supply it is not yet known. 

Distribution to states could begin immediately after FDA grants EUAs to COVID-19 vaccines. The first of the COVID-19 EUA applications, from Pfizer/BioNTech, will be considered by FDA on December 10. On Monday, November 30, Moderna submitted an EUA application for its vaccine; FDA will evaluate it at a later date. 

This week’s edition of APhA’s Addressing the COVID-19 Crisis: An Open Forum Webinar Series for Pharmacists will focus on the latest COVID-19 vaccine news—allocation, storage, and more—as will next week's edition. Foster will be among the guests. The 1-hour webinars are held every Thursday at 1:00 pm ET. Register here for the webinars