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Fair Covid Vaccine Distribution Plan Heads to National Academies

July 21, 2020, 6:57 PM

The U.S. plan for distributing a Covid-19 vaccine will likely rely on a new National Academies committee charged with developing the framework for who gets vaccinated first.

The National Academies committee will consider the criteria for equitable distribution among groups of potential vaccine recipients by accounting for population health disparities, individuals at higher risk, and how to ensure access to communities of color. The National Academies are a collection of three scientific academies in the U.S. that issue highly influential reports.

The White House wants to deliver deliver 300 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine by January. Democrats have been pressing for a national strategy that ensures the vaccine is accessible to everyone.

“Time is of the essence, and now is the time to prepare for a nationwide vaccine program,” Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), chairwoman of the House Energy and Commerce’s oversight panel said during a hearing Tuesday on vaccine development.

The committee, which will be led by a former CDC director credited with the smallpox eradication strategy and the head of a large community foundation, will meet for the first time on July 24. The National Academies expects to release the final report in the early fall, fast-tracking work that typically takes at least a year to complete, an academies spokesperson told Bloomberg Law.

“There will inevitably be limited doses available for the first several months,” Victor J. Dzau, president of the National Academy of Medicine, said in a statement “We look forward to providing a framework to advise policymakers and health authorities as they plan for these allocation decisions, as well as to help inform the American public’s understanding of this critical issue.”

William Foege, a distinguished professor at the Emory Rollins School of Public Health who led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the late 1970s, will lead the committee with Helene Gayle, president and chief executive of the Chicago Community Trust.

The National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked the National Academies to form the committee, NIH Director Francis S. Collins told a Senate panel earlier this month. Former CDC Director Julie Gerberding, who is now an executive at Merck & Co, also said the National Academies along with a CDC vaccine advisory panel were the right bodies to come up with a vaccine distribution during Tuesday’s House hearing.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeannie Baumann in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Fawn Johnson at; Andrew Childers at