The race is on to develop a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine. Several large-scale trials in the U.S. are in phase three, and experts say a vaccine could be ready within months.
But even after a vaccine is approved by the FDA, it will not be available to everyone immediately.
"There’s a lot of work that needs to be done to really make sure that we have systems in place so that once the vaccine is ready, that we can actually get it out and get it out quickly to everyone in an equitable way," said Dr. Julie Morita, Executive Vice President of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and former Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health.
She said that work is already being done to determine who should get priority access to the vaccine.
"There are groups that are already being convened at this point that include people from the academic world, public health world, ethicists, etc. to discuss who should get the vaccine," Dr. Morita told KCBS Radio.
While the world is paying close attention to the development of this vaccine, this is a common practice that happens anytime a new vaccine is developed so that it is recommended and prioritized for the right people.
Dr. Morita explained the two main factors to consider are who is most vulnerable to getting seriously ill or dying from the virus, and who is providing essential services. In the case of COVID-19, that means healthcare workers, educators and people who provide services like groceries and transportation as well as the elderly, people who have underlying health conditions and the Black and Latinx communities, which have been disproportionately impacted by the outbreak.
"Making sure that we’re taking into consideration who is getting sick, who is dying is really important as these priorities are being developed," she explained.
While groups are already convening to determine who gets priority access, Dr. Morita said, "What I’d love to see from the CDC is some transparency regarding that process...so we can be assured that it’s not just the rich and the wealthy who are getting the vaccine."
Dr. Morita added more transparency would help reassure people that the vaccine will be distributed fairly.