This week, a federal advisory panel recommended health care workers be among the first to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it's authorized for use. And in a document viewed by CBS News, Operation Warp Speed officials say 6.4 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine would be ready to be shipped out by Dec. 15 if emergency authorization is granted by the target date of Dec. 14; with its own emergency OK, a Moderna vaccine would go out on Dec. 22. But governors around the nation are starting to learn how many doses of the vaccine their states will initially be getting, and it looks like there will be enough to cover only a fraction of health care workers on the front lines. "It's a real concern," Maine Gov. Janet Mills said on a White House coronavirus task force call this week, noting that although her state has 18,000 health care workers, it looks like there would be enough doses to cover just 6,000.
The initial dearth of vaccine doses would cause some states to have to decide whether health care workers or long-term care facility residents—the other group given prioritization in the federal advisory panel's recommendation—get first dibs. CBS notes funding for distribution, a cost states must shoulder as of now, could also be a roadblock to quickly getting the vaccines out there. On the White House task force call, Operation Warp Speed leader Gustave Perna said that initial allotment numbers were only preliminary and would be finalized once emergency authorization comes. Meanwhile, the Washington Post notes that, even with distribution hopefully starting soon, health care workers "are bracing for an unprecedented wave of illness" amid a new surge of cases that's already overwhelming hospitals. "We're all at our breaking points," says an infectious disease doctor in Wichita, Kan. "It's unmanageable." (Read more coronavirus vaccine stories.)