Who gets COVID-19 vaccine first? High-risk groups likely to be priority while children wait

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- As the development of a coronavirus vaccine moves closer to approval, medical experts are helping California to decide who gets priority for receiving the vaccine.

California is one of three Western states developing its own plan.

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"The process by which those decisions are made is really important if people are going to trust the allocation process is fair," said Dr. Bernard Lo, a UCSF medical ethicist. He's one of three members of Governor Newsom's task force who talked about their planning on a webinar.

"They'll look at the safety data, they'll look at the efficacy data and decide for people in the western United States whether these vaccines should be used," said Dr. Randy Bergen, another task force member from Kaiser Permanente.

A distribution plan will be critical because early supplies of a COVID vaccine will be limited due to high demand, not just in the U.S., but overseas as well.

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The number of doses available would be cut in half if two shots are required.

"There's a lot of push to get out as much as we can once it's approved, and yes, we'll divide those numbers by two," said Dr. Jeffrey Silvers from Sutter Health.

The task force says transparency and input from all stakeholders will be vital.

So, who gets the vaccine first?

The case can be made that front-line health providers, the elderly in nursing homes, teachers, food supply workers and others doing essential jobs would be among the first. But there's also concern for residents of neighborhoods and people of specific racial and ethnic groups with high infection rates.

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Parents may find their children low on the priority list.

"Many of these safety studies... nothing has really been done on children under 12. It's going to be a while before we can protect children," said Dr. Bergen, who is a pediatrician.

The task force will hold its second meeting later this week, with frequency increasing as development of vaccines accelerates.

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