Two vaccine trials reported highly encouraging results in the past week, with both versions looking to be 95% effective or better. If one or both are approved for emergency use, the U.S. might have enough doses for 20 million people in early 2021. How should the initial supply be allocated? Should it be given to populations with a higher mortality risk, or to people who are most likely to spread disease at higher rates?
Most agree that America’s 18 million health-care workers should top the list. The 3.3 million teachers should come next.
Combating this pandemic has always been about saving lives while allowing the economy to function. The latter isn’t only about immediate business reopenings; it’s also about avoiding long-term harm to the economy and a generation of schoolchildren. That requires laying the groundwork to reopen schools for full-time in-person learning as soon as possible.
Early limited supplies of vaccines will go to state and federal agencies, including the Defense and Health and Human Services departments, for distribution. Recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies will influence how much vaccine each jurisdiction receives, but unless a Biden administration changes strategies in 2021, states likely will craft their own distribution plans.
Many states have made reopening nonessential businesses such as retail shops, bars and restaurants, malls and entertainment venues a priority. But without open schools, many parents can’t go to work. Some 12% of U.S. households have school-age children with no in-home caretaker options. The demands of at-home lessons are already rippling through the workforce; labor-force participation rates have fallen significantly for women with children at home.