By Rajesh Kumar Singh and Rebecca Spalding
(Reuters) - A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel on Sunday recommended that frontline essential workers and persons 75 years and older should be next in line to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted 13 to 1 to recommend 30 million frontline essential workers, which include first responders, teachers, food and agriculture, manufacturing, U.S. Postal Service, public transit, and grocery store workers, be the next priority for the vaccines.
In all, the move would make 51 million people eligible to get inoculated in the next round. It wasn't immediately clear when the next round would begin, however.
About 200 million people including non-frontline workers like those in media, finance, energy and IT & communication industries, persons in the 65-74 age group, and those aged 16-64 years with high-risk conditions should be in the ensuing round, the panel recommended.
The group had already recommended that frontline healthcare workers and nursing home residents be the first priority groups.
Coronavirus mortality rates are highest in older adults, with the 75-years-and-older population accounting for 25% of COVID-19 associated hospitalizations, according to a work group set up by the advisory panel on vaccine distribution.
Citing the limited availability of the doses, the work group broke essential workers down into frontline and non-frontline workers.
States, which are the ones distributing shots to their residents, will use the ACIP guidelines to guide their decisions on how to allocate doses of Pfizer Inc's and Moderna Inc's COVID-19 vaccines while supplies are scarce.
States have broad discretion of how to classify essential workers and more than 20 large industries have lobbied authorities to get their workers to the front of the line, a Reuters analysis found.
While vaccine supplies have thus far been limited, federal authorities have said that production will ramp up in the coming months. Officials for U.S. Operation Warp Speed have said that they will distribute enough doses for 100 million Americans to be vaccinated by the end of February.
Federal authorities began shipping the first 2.9 million doses of Pfizer Inc's vaccine on Dec. 13. They expect to distribute an additional 2 million doses this week as well as 5.9 million doses of Moderna Inc's vaccine.
Even after those doses are distributed, more than half of the nation's 21 million healthcare workers and 3 million nursing home residents will still need to be vaccinated.
(Reporting by Rajesh Kumar Singh in Chicago; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Lisa Shumaker and Sonya Hepinstall)