PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices met Tuesday on an emergency basis because emergency use authorization for a COVID-19 vaccine could be coming soon.
“We now have two different vaccines — one from Pfizer and one from Moderna — that appear to be safe and effective. Both organizations have applied for EUA status. And we expect that the Pfizer vaccine ruling would come next week. So there is an urgency,” says Dr. Marc Itskowitz, a primary care internist at the Allegheny Health Network.
The group advises the federal government on vaccines, including who will get the vaccines and how they’ll be given. It will look at priority groups, risks and benefits, and dosing schedules, especially in the initial rollout.
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“These vaccines require two doses, four weeks apart. Record keeping is going to be important,” says Dr. Itskowitz.
Health care workers and nursing home residents will be first, a group of 24 million people with the most to gain.
“A lot of our frontline health care workers have been directly affected. Many of which are in quarantine situations, creating some shortages,” Dr. Itskowitz says. “The people who have been affected the most in the worst way from this COVID-19 have been residents of long-term care facilities, like nursing facilities.”
The advisory group will also discuss how vaccine safety should be monitored after people get it.
“We expect them to recommend the use of technology, such as phone text messaging as well as an online portal,” Dr. Itskowitz said.
“When we go from 60,000 people to 24 million people, that’s a huge increase. So it wouldn’t be surprising if there was least a signal or something else we would need to follow,” he added.
Before the panel’s recommendations are put in motion, the CDC’s director would have to approve them.
“This process has occurred very quickly, but I think it’s occurred carefully. And I think we’re going to have a lot of careful follow-ups,” says Dr. Itskowitz.
Emergency use authorization can be revoked if any safety concerns develop as more people take the vaccine.
In the meeting, panelists brought up prioritizing within priority groups with the limited first supply. They also talked about staggering immunizations within hospital units so that everyone doesn’t call off with side effects at the same time.