A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention committee voted Tuesday to give coronavirus vaccine priority first to health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities as the initial doses are set to be distributed as early as this month.

“I believe that my vote reflects maximum benefits, minimum harm, promoting justice and mitigating the health inequalities that exist regarding the distribution of this vaccine,” said Dr. Jose Romero, chairman of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

The committee, which has 15 members, held a virtual public meeting to make the vote and share presentations that covered vaccine safety monitoring, clinical considerations, potential sub-prioritizations and implementation.

All members voted yes on the proposal to first vaccinate health care personnel and nursing home residents with the exception of Dr. Helen Keipp Talbot of Vanderbilt University, who acknowledged “this was not an easy vote.”

Health care personnel outlined in the guidance include those working in hospitals, outpatient clinics, long-term care facilities, home health care, pharmacies, EMS and public health departments. Long-term care facility residents include those in skilled nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other residential care.

Members of the committee said 40 million vaccine doses, which can vaccinate 20 million people, will be available by the end of the year. Doses will come out in quantities of about five to 10 million a week, ACIP members said.

The doses will come from Moderna and Pfizer, which have both already submitted data to the Food and Drug Administration seeking emergency use authorization for their mRNA vaccine candidates.

As vaccine doses trickle out, sub-prioritization within health care workers and nursing home residents may be necessary.

At future meetings, the ACIP will decide who will be next in line to get the vaccine, which could include teachers, police, firefighters, food service workers, the elderly and adults with high-risk medical conditions.

The recommendations are not binding, but for decades they have been widely heeded by doctors, and they have determined the scope and funding of U.S. vaccination programs.

It will be up to state authorities whether to follow the guidance.

The Massachusetts COVID-19 Command Center did not respond when asked how the CDC vote will impact the state’s distribution plan.

An interim proposal from October says Massachusetts can initially expect between 20,000 and 60,000 doses of the vaccine that would go to health care and other essential workers, as well as people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Herald wire services contributed to this report.


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