Nationwide Vaccine Availability
The Pfizer vaccine was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on December 11, 2020 and the Moderna vaccine was approved on December 18, 2020. Distributions are being allocated to states in quantities based on population. Each state is responsible for the distribution of vaccine to health care providers. Although each state has a degree of flexibility, all state distribution plans are informed by guidelines issued by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.) The guidelines suggest that the initial wave of vaccine availability will be administered in the following order of priority:
- Frontline health care workers and adults in long term facilities
- Essential workers
- Adults with high risk medical conditions and adults older than 65
Even though we expect people with ALS to be given priority access to a vaccine, that access is still weeks away. In the meantime, COVID-19 infection rates continue to be high, and we urge everyone to continue following CDC guidance on social distancing, hand washing, and wearing masks.
What About People With ALS?
The CDC guidelines do not mention specific diseases (such as ALS) as high-risk medical conditions as they apply to the of distribution of vaccinations in this initial three-part phase. The ALS Association is reaching out to governors across the United States to ensure that individual state plans include people with ALS are included in the third category based on the deterioration of breathing muscles over the progression of the disease and the risks that carries for severe pulmonary complications, including COVID-19.
Is the Vaccine Safe for People Living With ALS?
We strongly advise all people living with ALS to consult with their physician to discuss taking the vaccine as soon as supplies in their states allow. The ALS Association continues to consult with ALS medical specialists nationwide and we remain encouraged by the safety and efficacy data. You can listen to our December 10, 2020 podcast interview with Cliff Gooch, M.D., Chair of the University of South Florida’s Department of Neurology and a member of The ALS Association Board of Trustees. Dr. Gooch details the process of review and vetting of vaccines and discusses the vaccine in the context of an ALS diagnosis.
What Do I Need to Do Today to Prevent Exposure to COVID-19?
The current surge in COVID-19 cases across the country warrants extra attention by people with ALS and their caregivers and family members to the protocols recommended by the CDC: avoid crowds, stay at least six feet away from people who are not part of your household, wear a mask, and wash hands regularly, etc.