A panel of advisors with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted at an emergency meeting Tuesday in favor of a recommendation allowing health care personnel and residents at long-term care facilities to be the first populations to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson sent a request ahead of the meeting on behalf of residents "hit hard" by the pandemic.
The fight against COVID-19 continues at Los Barrios Unidos Community Clinic in Oak Cliff, a community that has cases of the virus rise in recent weeks.
“We’re certainly seeing an increase of patients accessing care here,” said Dr. Sharon Davis, chief medical officer at Los Barrios Unidos. “We are seeing more children now and we’re seeing a lot of families where one person gets it and the whole family is getting it as well.”
The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted for the recommendation to allow health care workers and residents at long-term care facilities to be the first populations to receive a vaccine when the FDA authorizes one. The committee will send its guidance to the CDC but it will ultimately be up to states on whether to follow the CDC's guidelines on vaccine distribution.
In a letter to the chair of the committee, Johnson requested that when considering the next group after health care workers, first responders and the most vulnerable, it be considered "a priority to deliver the vaccine to minority populations that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19."
“Absolutely,” Davis said of Johnson's request. “Because they are disproportionately affected with the virus. They are disproportionately affected by hospitalizations and they are disproportionately affected in mortality.”
An NBC 5 investigation found neighborhoods at greatest risk for more-severe cases of the coronavirus are largely in the southern sector of Dallas. Areas where underlying health conditions, a lack of health insurance and access to doctors put Black and Hispanic residents at higher risk for hospitalizations and death.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins detailed the county’s anticipated timeline for a vaccine rollout.
“December, we’re going to qualify nursing home residents and health care workers,” he said.
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Jenkins said that in January additional elderly and high-risk people would qualify for a vaccine.
Others may not be able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine until April, at the earliest.
“We can prioritize those zip codes that are most affected, but we can’t give it to people at that point who are say, 25 and healthy,” Jenkins said.
Davis responded to those who would question why ethnic groups would be prioritized when the virus can affect anyone at any age.
“Right now those are the folks, people of color are the ones who are often affected severely, so it is really important," she said. "Just like our other high-risk populations: nursing home folks, people with chronic illness. There’s unfortunately not an endless supply. It’s going to start out with a fairly small amount of vaccines and then we’re going to roll it out fully.”
In the meantime, she pleaded for vigilance and patience.
“There really is a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s coming. The vaccine is coming,” she said.