Pressure to create a coronavirus vaccine is increasing by the day, but for a safe vaccine to enter the market, it takes time.


Arizona’s COVID-19 vaccine plan doesn’t say for certain who gets immunized first when vaccines roll out, but the working document suggests priority will go to a broad category of health care workers.

Officials with the Arizona Department of Health Services recently submitted its draft coronavirus vaccine plan to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was a requirement for all states.

The state plans were due Oct. 16. Arizona’s draft plan builds off a model it used during the H1N1 (swine flu) pandemic of 2009. Arizona’s plan will be updated as more details are provided to the state from federal partners, state health officials say.

A more detailed “operational” vaccine plan is expected to be completed further along in the process. State health officials say they don’t have a definitive date for when that plan will be released.

In Thursday’s presidential debate, President Donald Trump said there was a COVID-19 vaccine “that’s ready.”

But experts say it’s unlikely a vaccine will be available until the end of the year, and many place wide distribution at sometime in 2021. To date, no COVID-19 vaccine has been approved by the FDA, either through the regular approval process or by emergency use authorization.

Who might be immunized first?

While more than one COVID-19 vaccine may become available, there might not be enough supply to initially go around. That’s why government officials need to consider who to immunize first, and the ways that they will distribute it.

The state plan references priority populations outlined in the CDC’s COVID-19 Vaccination Interim Playbook released in September, as well as guidance contained in a federal report released earlier this month.

Both the CDC playbook and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report prioritize health care workers and first responders during the first phase of the vaccine rollout.

A state worksheet in the draft plan lists the priority order by category for receiving vaccines, before it would go to the general population:

  • 1a: Health care personnel, among them pharmacists, pharmacy techs, school nurses, home health aides, health care support workers, practitioners and first responders.
  • 1b: Other essential workers such as food industry workers, teachers and child care workers.
  • 1b: People at increased risk for COVID-19 illness, including people age 65 and older.
  • 2: People at increased risk of acquiring or transmitting the coronavirus, such as individuals attending colleges and universities and racial and ethnic minority groups.
  • 2: People with limited access to routine vaccination services, including people with disabilities and people who don’t speak English.

“While target groups and prioritization tiers may differ somewhat for each local jurisdiction, this worksheet will assist in estimations and reinforce key planning elements,” Arizona Department of Health Services spokesman Steve Elliott wrote in an email.

The state plan, CDC playbook and NASEM report all reference health inequities that need to be addressed