By STEPHANIE EBBS and ARIELLE MITROPOULOS, ABC News

(ATLANTA) — A group of independent experts is set to vote Tuesday on who should get the first shots of a COVID-19 vaccine once it’s authorized by the Food and Drug Administration.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee on vaccines, called the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices or ACIP, is scheduled to vote on who it recommends should receive the initial limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines. The panel is expected to recommend that health care workers treating COVID-19 patients and residents and staff in nursing homes and long-term care facilities be first in line.

The focus this week is on which groups of Americans can receive the first round of vaccine doses from Moderna and Pfizer if either receives emergency use authorization from the FDA.

Then, as more doses are produced and become more widely available, other groups of frontline workers or Americans with less risk will be able to access the vaccine.

The ACIP committee is made up of experts from around the country who make recommendations about how vaccines should be used, including who should receive certain vaccines and when, and the recommended schedule for vaccinating children. The members don’t work for the government but provide independent expertise in how vaccines work, how the immune system responds, family medicine, and infectious diseases.

After the committee’s recommendations are reviewed and published by CDC, states can use them to inform how they will ultimately distribute the first round of vaccine doses.

In the case of vaccines not yet approved or authorized, the CDC committee typically makes its recommendations final after FDA weighs in, in part because FDA could put limitations on who can receive the vaccine under an emergency use authorization. For example, the FDA could say the vaccines are not appropriate for use in children under 12 because they don’t have data on that age group yet.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar has said he will work with CDC so the FDA committee considering whether vaccines should be authorized and the CDC advisory group can meet at the same time so there are recommendations for how to distribute the initial doses of vaccine available as quickly as possible as shipments start to go out to states.

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