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Who Will Get the Coronavirus Vaccine First?

You might not want to be among the first batch to receive the coronavirus vaccine, but you probably won’t be, anyway

According to the New York Times’ comprehensive coronavirus vaccine tracker, there are currently 30 different vaccines undergoing human trials. Usually, these things take years of research and testing — for example, the vaccine for the Ebola virus, a disease that causes you to bleed from your eyes and has up to a 90 percent fatality rate, took five years to develop. As you might have noticed, though, we don’t have the luxury of that kind of time at the moment. And so, the race is on to develop a vaccine that will ideally, if eventually, eradicate the coronavirus and set life back to normal (whatever that might be). 

But when that day arrives, who will get the vaccine first? The rich and powerful? Those at highest risk? Essential workers? Kids? All of the above? 

Given that the first vaccine to be approved for large(ish)-scale use was developed in conjunction with the Chinese military, it’s possible that the first people to be vaccinated against COVID-19 en masse (if they haven’t been already) will be those who have little choice in the matter — i.e., soldiers. Meanwhile, seven other vaccines are currently in Phase III trials, each of which involves thousands of people. So the glib answer here is that the first people to receive the vaccine will be those who participated in these clinical trials. 

From there, people who live in the countries where the vaccines were created will be given priority. (Unfortunately, only one vaccine has entered the third phase of trials in the U.S.

After that, things get murkier, especially because there will likely be a shortage of doses. In a perfect world, the people who receive those precious doses would be those at the highest risk for complications and medical workers, who, you know, are exposed to coronavirus on pretty much a daily basis. The remaining doses would then trickle down proportionally by risk, perhaps via a weighted lottery system

But that’s not ever how things go, is it? 

The distribution of the vaccine will likely play out as testing did initially. That is, people of Tom Hanks’ status will probably get one before you do. In some sense, that’s a comfort — if major athletes and movie stars are being injected with coronavirus genes, it must be because it’s safe to do so. Once it does trickle down to the rest of us (and there are enough doses available), insurance companies promise that they’ll cover the cost in its entirety. Hopefully, free vaccines will become available to the uninsured, as well. 

So, as it stands, Chinese soldiers will probably first in line. Then, if/when things move stateside, it’ll likely be LeBron James and his Laker teammates. And finally, us regular folk will get a turn.

Either way, expect a wait.