LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – In the race to find and distribute a COVID-19 vaccine, the recommendations for who gets it is coming from right here in Arkansas. Health Secretary Dr. Jose Romero is heading up the roll-out plan for the entire country.
Claire Kreuz sat down exclusively with Dr. Romero about this position and shows what goes into the decision on who will be the first to get the vaccine.
It’s called the Advisory Committee of Immunization Practices. It’s made up of 12 members who are experts in vaccines and Dr. Romero is the chairman.
He leads the discussions and voting process. Right now, the group is finalizing its recommendations for the COVID vaccine.
Day in and day out, Dr. Romero leads the state through the pandemic all while he’s on the forefront of the fight against COVID-19 throughout the country.
“We have to vaccinate a sufficient number of people in order to prevent the spread,” Dr. Romero said.
With his extensive background in infectious diseases, Romero was picked to lead the group in charge of researching the COVID vaccine and making recommendations on who gets it.
“The meetings have been very, very intense, and I mean that in a manner that we’re processing a lot of information” Dr. Romero said.
He is looking at all the data coming out of the trials and the FDA.
“One of the most important things is that we need to know who the vaccine works in,” Dr. Romero said. He is also identifying high risk groups and putting those to the top of the list.
“Health care providers, essential workers, emergency personnel, persons over 65 individuals living in confined settings such as nursing homes and individuals with certain comorbid conditions,” Dr. Romero said.
From there, the group will decide who will get the first doses.
“We are in the process of getting there. We need to know which vaccines are going to be licensed so that we can make the final recommendations with regard to that,” Dr. Romero said.
It’s a decision that impacts the entire country, that’s why Romero says they have open meetings once a month so everyone gets a voice.
“We discuss in an open fashion so that the entire public, United States public, can then determine what we’re doing and see how we’re coming to our decisions,” Dr. Romero said.
Once those recommendations are finalized it’s is the first step in getting to the other side of the pandemic, but Romero says don’t put away your masks just yet.
“I wish it was that easy. We are not going to be going back to life as normal for at least a year,” Dr. Romero said.
Once the group makes its final recommendations, they will submit them to the director of the CDC.