A somewhat vague group of medical and public health professionals known as the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is debating the crucial question in the minds of millions of Americans: When can I get a COVID vaccine?
ACIP is developing recommendations for the use of vaccines, and at least two major pharmaceutical companies may only be weeks away from reloading their products in the United States. On Monday, the committee outlined its ethical principles for the orderly distribution of vaccines to an estimated 21 million health workers.
Other groups at or near the beginning of the line include other essential workers such as first aiders, teachers, agricultural workers and energy workers; people at high risk for health; and people over 65 years of age.
The recommendations are designed to maximize benefits, minimize harm, promote justice, and reduce health inequalities, the committee says.
“I know our nation will give you a thoughtful and wise recommendation to all of you,” said CDC Director CDC at the beginning of the meeting. – I would like to highlight for a moment how important your work is.
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ACIP recommendations provide public health guidance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will then use them to establish a U.S. adult and childhood immunization schedule based on these recommendations.
The Committee shall not vote on the distribution guideline until the vaccine has been approved or authorized by the Food and Medicines Authority. Monday’s meeting was an information meeting, with more than 25 members of the group running since April.
A recent Gallup survey showed that only 58% of Americans are willing to receive COVID vaccine. The “hesitation” of vaccines usually accompanies the country’s efforts to curb an infectious disease, said Ogbonnaya Omenka, an associate professor and public health professional at Butler University who is not directly involved in ACIP.
Part of the committee’s responsibility is to build trust in vaccines, Omenka said.
“The role of vaccines in the health status of the population is justified by the isolation of various infectious diseases such as polio, smallpox and measles,” Omenka said. “ACIP is an important part of vaccine acceptance.”
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Dr. Moncef Slaoui, chief scientific adviser to the federal government’s efforts to produce vaccines quickly for Operation Warp Speed, stressed this week that the final determination of the order of distribution will be for each state.
“Each state decides for itself, taking into account the guidelines for who to immunize,” Slaoui said.
The ACIP consists of 15 experts who are voting members who are primarily responsible for vaccination recommendations. The committee is selected by the Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Resources through a tender and nomination process.
Fourteen of them have vaccine, immunological, pediatric, internal medicine, nursing, family medicine, virological, public health, infectious diseases or preventive medicine. One member is consumer protection, which provides perspectives on the social and community aspects of vaccination.
In addition to the voting members, there are 30 non-voting representatives of highly regarded professional organizations in the field of health. They comment on ACIP’s recommendations and offer the perspective of the groups that implement the recommendations.
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Pfizer / BioNTech has already applied to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency approval for a vaccine that could progress by mid-December. Moderna says it will soon seek permission from the FDA for its candidate. There are no other candidates behind. Slaoui said 20 million Americans could be vaccinated next month.
ACIP develops vaccination recommendations for children and adults, including age at vaccination, number of doses required, time between doses, precautions, and contraindications.
“The impact or role of ACIP in vaccine approval is about indirect,” Omenka said. “Their recommendations will be further considered before final decisions are made.”
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This article was originally published on TODAY USA: COVID and ACIP: What is the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices?