As drugmakers race to develop a vaccine that is safe and effective for treating COVID-19, the initial supplies of the drug may not be enough to vaccinate even high-risk groups such as healthcare workers, according to a news report.

The federal government has said it is hopeful that a vaccine to treat the virus can be developed by the end of 2021, but the situation still begs the question of who will be vaccinated first.

With an reported more than 100 million front line workers at greater risk of contracting COVID-19, public health officials say that they should receive the vaccine first once approved. But quantities of a COVID-19 vaccine available may only be able to cover even a portion of this high-risk population, The Wall Street Journal reported.

A slide presentation presented by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicated that there will be 10 million to 20 million doses of a vaccine available out of the gate, which was further confirmed by a Trump administration official during a call with reporters last week, the WSJ said.

“Given the initial anticipated supply, not all groups that are deemed a priority will be able to be vaccinated at once,” Dr. Sarah Mbaeyi, a CDC medical officer, said during the presentation to the vaccine advisers, according to WSJ.

Health officials are now tasked with the difficult decision to determine who will receive the COVID-19 vaccine first.

“There have been heartfelt discussions about this,” said William Schaffner, who is a professor of preventive medicine and infectious-disease at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He also serves on a liaison group advising the CDC vaccine committee about coronavirus vaccines.

To date, the U.S. had not determined who will receive the COVID-19 vaccine first, nor has it been decided who will make that final determination.

The federal government has fast-tracked several vaccine possibilities under its Operation Warp Speed to help a safe and effective drug to hit the market as quickly as possible. It has funded several key drugmakers to move the process along, with the most recent being a $1 billion deal with Johnson & Johnson for 100 million doses of a vaccine under a demonstration project to prove manufacturing capabilities.

While a COVID-19 vaccine has not been approved to date, at least six have been listed by the World Health Organization as conducting clinical trials, including AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Moderna.

The companies have said they expect to receive U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval as early as October,.  The say production will ramp up to hundreds of millions of doses at that time with further production totals  slated for 2021.

UK experimental covid-19 vaccine UK experimental covid-19 vaccine Photo: geralt/Pixabay