Skip to main content

Health Library

COVID-19: Who's in line to get the vaccine next?

A masked and gloved healthcare worker draws vaccine from a vial.

Priority is based, in part, on who's most at risk from the virus.

In December 2020, U.S. health officials began shipping out the first COVID-19 vaccines.

In time, the hope is that anyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one. But there isn't enough supply to meet the high demand just yet. So it's being rolled out in phases.

States currently set their own rules about when to offer the vaccine to different groups. But a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory committee made some recommendations about who should get the vaccine first.

In making these decisions, they looked at a number of factors, including the need to lower the number of deaths and serious illnesses as much as possible, to protect those already facing serious health challenges, and to keep the country running during the pandemic. Here's what they suggested:

Phase 1a

Healthcare workers. Due to their work caring for sick people, they face a greater risk of exposure to the virus. Protecting them first also helps ensure that healthcare systems can continue to operate.

Long-term care residents. Group living situations, older age and poor health put this group at very high risk from COVID-19.

Phase 1b

Frontline essential workers. This group includes firefighters, police, and those who work in food production, grocery stores, manufacturing, public transit, post offices and schools.

People ages 75 or older. They are at high risk of severe COVID-19 illness, hospitalization and death.

Phase 1c

People ages 65 to 74. These older adults are also at high risk of severe illness.

People ages 16 to 64 with high-risk medical conditions. Certain health conditions can raise the risk of severe COVID-19. See a list.

Other essential workers. That includes people working in industries such as:

  • Transportation.
  • Food service.
  • Construction.
  • Information technology.
  • Energy.
  • Law.
  • Public safety.
  • Public health.

Who comes next?

As vaccine supplies increase, CDC will continue to make recommendations about which groups to vaccinate next. Vaccines could start to be more widely available as soon as this spring.

To find out when a vaccine may be available to you and how to get it, check with your local health department. And to learn more about the vaccines that have been authorized so far, visit our Coronavirus health topic center.

Reviewed 2/15/2021

Related stories

Sign up for our health e-newsletter