Who would be the first to get a COVID-19 vaccine?

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Illustration by Peter Hamlin.

Who would be the first to get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Probably people in the country where the first effective vaccine is developed.

About a dozen different vaccines are in various stages of testing worldwide, including in Britain, China and the U.S. This week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, said he is cautiously optimistic there will be a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year or early 2021.

Several wealthy countries have already ordered millions of doses of those experimental vaccines.

Britain and the U.S., for example, have invested in a vaccine candidate being developed by Oxford University and produced by AstraZeneca. If it works, U.K. politicians have said Britons will be vaccinated with it. The U.S. expects to start stockpiling it this fall and also has invested in other vaccine candidates.

Groups including the vaccine alliance GAVI are also working to buy doses for poor countries and AstraZeneca has agreed to license its vaccine to India’s Serum Institute for the production of 1 billion doses. The World Health Organization is drafting guidelines for the ethical distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

How vaccines are distributed within a country will vary. Last week, U.S. officials said they were developing a tiered system for that. The system would likely prioritize groups at greatest risk of severe complications from COVID-19 and key workers.

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