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CDC Recommendations for COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

Although there are two COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the United States, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to get vaccinated right away.

Because the U.S. supply of COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be limited at first, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is providing recommendations to federal, state and local governments about who should be vaccinated first. The CDC’s recommendations are based on those from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), an independent panel of medical and public health experts.

The recommendations were made with these goals in mind:

  • Decrease death and serious disease as much as possible.
  • Preserve the functioning of society.
  • Reduce the extra burden COVID-19 is having on people already facing disparities.

While the CDC makes recommendations for who should be offered COVID-19 vaccines first, each state has its own plan for deciding who will be vaccinated first and how they can receive vaccines. Please contact your local health department for more information on COVID-19 vaccination in your area.

Vaccine Distribution Phase 1a

The CDC recommends that initial supplies of COVID-19 vaccine be allocated to health care personnel and long-term care facility residents. Prioritizing the vaccination of these individuals is referred to as Phase 1a. Phases may overlap. The CDC made this recommendation on Dec. 3, 2020.

Vaccine Distribution Phases 1b and 1c

The CDC recommends that in Phase 1b and Phase 1c, which may overlap, vaccination should be offered to people in the groups listed below. The CDC made this recommendation on Dec. 22, 2020.

Phase 1b

  • Front-line essential workers. These include fire fighters, police officers, corrections officers, food and agricultural workers, United States Postal Service workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers and those who work in the educational sector (e.g., teachers, support staff and day care workers).
  • People aged 75 years and older. They are at high risk of hospitalization, illness, and death from COVID-19. People aged 75 years and older who are also residents of long-term care facilities should be offered vaccination in Phase 1a.

Phase 1c

  • People aged 65-74 years. They are at high risk of hospitalization, illness and death from COVID-19. People aged 65-74 years who are also residents of long-term care facilities should be offered vaccination in Phase 1a.
  • People aged 16-64 years with certain underlying medical conditions. Such conditions increase the risk of serious, life-threatening complications from COVID-19.
  • Other essential workers. These include people who work in transportation and logistics, food service, housing construction and finance, information technology, communications, energy, law, media, public safety and public health.

What About the General Public?

The goal is for everyone to be able to easily get a COVID-19 vaccination as soon as large enough quantities of vaccine are available. As vaccine supply increases but remains limited, ACIP will expand the groups recommended for vaccination.

For more information on the CDC’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution recommendations, click here.

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