FAQ: As initial doses of vaccine arrive, what comes next?

The first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine arrived to the East End this week. Here, we break down some frequently asked questions about the vaccine and what people can expect next.

Q: How much does the vaccine cost?

A: There will be no cost to receive the vaccine, although vaccination providers may be able to charge administration fees. Vaccination providers can have the fee reimbursed by the patient’s public or private insurance company or through a relief fund for the uninsured.

Q: Is the vaccine safe?

A: Yes, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The first COVID-19 vaccine was granted approval by the FDA under an Emergency Use Authorization. The vaccine was developed by Pfizer-BioNTech. Other companies are also developing vaccines that will require approval, including a vaccine by Moderna that is close to approval. “Efforts to speed vaccine development have not sacrificed scientific standards or the integrity of our vaccine evaluation process,” Peter Marks, M.D., the director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said.

Q: What about side effects?

A: Possible side effects from COVID-19 vaccination may include flu-like symptoms and may affect one’s ability to do daily activities, but they should subside in a few days. “This is a normal sign that your body is building protection,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. The vaccine does not give a person COVID-19.

Q: Will the vaccine continue to be evaluated?

A: Yes. Additional vaccine effectiveness assessments are done to make sure “the vaccine protects people from getting the disease under real-world conditions outside of strict setting of clinical trials,” the CDC says. Case-control studies, cohort studies, ecologic analyses and screening method are all different types of assessments that will be done.

Q: How many doses are required?

A: The Pfizer vaccine requires two shots in order to work. The second shot is delivered three weeks after the first. Anyone who gets the first shot should still get a second shot, even if they experience side effects. Protection from the virus may not begin until a week or two after the second shot.

Q: Who gets the vaccine first?

A: Initial doses will be given to residents and staff in long-term care facilities and health care workers. “Once [the] vaccine is widely available, the plan is to have several thousand vaccination providers offering COVID-19 vaccines in doctors’ offices, retail pharmacies, hospitals, and federally qualified health centers,” the CDC says.

Q: Should I get a vaccine if I already tested positive for COVID-19?

A: The CDC says it’s not entirely clear yet how long after an infection that someone is protected from getting COVID-19 again. So it could be beneficial to still get the vaccine after previously testing positive.

Q: So the pandemic is over?

A: No. It will take months for enough people to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Experts say as many as 75-80% of the population will need vaccination to achieve herd immunity. People should continue to follow the proper protocols of wearing masks and social distancing. A return to normal may not come until the second half of 2021 or early in 2022.

*Information from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Food and Drug Administration.