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December 3, 2020

With a limited supply of vaccine doses coming soon, who gets it first?

Ask students: What is a vaccine and how does it work? Why do you think so many Americans are skeptical about taking the coronavirus vaccine?

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Who Gets the Coronavirus Vaccine First?

The recommendations made on Tuesday, December 1 by the CDC (the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention) advisory committee about who should get the earliest doses of a COVID vaccine kick off a series of crucial decision points for the coming weeks, including how states make their own decisions about distributing a vaccine. Watch the video featuring reporter Amna Nawaz and answer the discussion questions. A transcript of the video is available here

  • Though the advisory committee does not have final authority over who gets a coronavirus vaccine first, its recommendations are expected to carry weight with federal and local governments.
  • The committee recommended that the first available doses of vaccine go to health care frontline workers and nursing home residents. This group is estimated to be around 24 million people, and it’s expected that two to five millions vaccine doses will be available every week for the first few weeks after the vaccine is prepared.
  • While, enough vaccine doses are expected to be ready by this spring for the general population, only 58 percent of respondents to recent polling said they’d be willing to take the coronavirus vaccine.

Coronavirus Vaccine Discussion Questions

  1. What is a vaccine and how does it work?
  2. Who is expected to have access to the vaccine first?
  3. Why does it take so long to approve and distribute a vaccine?
  4. When are vaccine doses expected to be available for everyone?
  5. How is this particular vaccine difficult to produce and distribute?

Focus Questions: Coronavirus Vaccine and Skepticism

  1. How do you think authorities should decide who gets access to the coronavirus vaccine first?
    • Who would you want to see have access to the vaccine as early as possible?
    • Do you think there’s a better way to decide who gets the vaccine first than by allowing federal and state health authorities to decide?
  2. Why do you think so many Americans are skeptical about taking the vaccine?

Media Literacy:The doctor in this interview mentions that the vaccines haven’t been approved yet, and the results of their trials haven’t even been published yet in medical journals (he calls their announcements of around 95% effectiveness “science-by-press-release”). How do you think the media should cover scientific announcements that haven’t been proven yet by review by other scientists and authorities?

Additional Resources

  • The FDA will need to approve any vaccine that comes to market. To learn more about the FDA’s process and current process, visit their newsfeed on the vaccine here.
  • Americans everywhere are experiencing challenges from prolonged effects of pandemic measures, including the isolation of remote working and learning. Check out this lesson to learn about ways isolation can affect mental health, and what can be done about it.

Republished with permission from PBS NewsHour Extra.

PBS NewsHour Classroom

PBS NewsHour Classroom helps teachers and students identify the who, what, where and why-it-matters of the major national and international news stories.

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