Not everyone can be vaccinated at once, especially in the initial stages when vaccine supplies are limited. Recommendations for how to allocate these limited supplies are based on three goals: to decrease death and serious disease as much as possible, to keep the most critical essential health services functioning; and eventually to reduce the overall disease burden so that further disruption of social and economic functions can be avoided.
This is why healthcare personnel, people aged 60 years and older and residents of long-term care facilities should be offered the first doses of COVID-19 vaccines.
People aged 60 years and older, as well as residents of long-term care facilities, are prioritized because they are at high risk of developing severe disease, of being hospitalized, and of dying from COVID-19.
Healthcare personnel continue to be on the front line of the fight against this deadly pandemic. By providing critical care to those who are or might be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, healthcare personnel have a high risk of being exposed to and getting sick with COVID-19.
When healthcare personnel get sick with COVID-19, they are also not able to work and provide key services for patients. Healthcare personnel who get COVID-19 can also spread the virus to those they are caring for—including hospitalized patients and residents of long-term care facilities. Many of these individuals may have underlying health conditions that put them at risk for severe COVID-19 illness. Prioritization of medical workers is also supported by the principle of reciprocity; they play critical roles in the COVID-19 response, working under intense and challenging conditions, putting not only themselves but also potentially their households at higher risk for the sake of others.
- Supply of COVID-19 vaccines is limited.
- Need to ensure their most rational and effective use.
- The immediate aim is to reduce deaths and severe disease and maintain essential services.
- First doses must therefore go to those at highest risk: health workers and older adults.