Who will get Covid-19 vaccine next? Frontline essential workers and Americans 75 and older, says CDC panel

First responders, those who work in the education sector, food and agriculture, manufacturing, corrections workers, US postal service, public transit and grocery store workers are in line

                            Who will get Covid-19 vaccine next? Frontline essential workers and Americans 75 and older, says CDC panel
(Getty Images)

People who are 75 years and older along with about 30 million “frontline essential workers” in the US should be next in line to get coronavirus vaccinations, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended. The panel voted 13 to 1 after deliberations on Sunday, December 20 to make suggestions on who should be offered coronavirus vaccination in Phase 1b & 1c.

In a previous meeting earlier in December, the group voted on Phase 1a, which advised giving the first round of vaccines to healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities.

Who are frontline essential workers?

The ACIP defines frontline essential workers as Americans “who are in sectors essential to the functioning of society and are at substantially higher risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes Covid-19.”

This group includes first responders (firefighters, police), those who work in the education sector (teachers, support staff, daycare), those who work in food and agriculture, those in manufacturing, corrections workers, US postal service workers, public transit workers and grocery store workers. 

“This is without a doubt the hardest vote that I have taken in my six-and-a-half-years on the committee. I am confident that we have arrived at this by examining the data thoroughly, and that what we are providing, as has been stated before, the ultimate decision will be at a local level. But what we are providing governors and health officials with is a framework, which is supported by evidence,” said chair Jose Romero, secretary of health for Arkansas, who voted ‘yes’ on the proposed Phase 1b and 1c suggestions.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted emergency use authorization to two Covid-19 vaccines, from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. While the first doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccines were given on December 14, distribution for Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine began on December 20 and inoculations are likely to start on December 21.

Distribution for Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine in the US started on December 20 (Getty Images)


There are approximately 57 million more essential workers in the US and include those who work in transportation and logistics, food service, shelter and housing (construction), finance, IT and communication, energy, media, legal, public safety (engineers), as well as water and wastewater. They will be included in Phase 1c, the panel voted on Sunday. According to ACIP, this phase should also cover adults aged 65 to 74, as well as anyone in the 16 to 64 age group with an underlying health condition that would put them at higher risk for complications from Covid-19. Those conditions may include type 2 diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and certain heart conditions. 

Overall, Phase 1a of the vaccination effort in the US, which began last week, involves offering vaccines to 24 million people. In Phase 1b, an estimated 49 million people will be eligible to receive a Covid-19 vaccine. Phase 1c is a much larger group, including roughly 129 million Americans. In total, the first three priority groups will cover 202 million people, double the number of people the country expects to have vaccinated by March 2021.

Health and Human Service Secretary Alex M Azar had earlier said that the US plans to have 200 million vaccines by the end of the first quarter (by March 2021-end), which will be enough to immunize 100 million Americans, he noted. The ACIP recommendations will be sent to CDC Director Robert Redfield, who must sign off on them so that they can become CDC guidelines. However, states can make the final decisions on how to roll out vaccinations.