Now that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has finally issued an emergency approval for the first round of COVID-19 vaccines, I already know you have questions about it, because I do too. First things first, before you say you’re not going to get a vaccine, don’t jump to a hasty conclusion. Hear me out and then make your decision. Here are a few answers to some burning questions you might have.
Q: Where will I be able to get the vaccine?
A: Many doses of the vaccine made by Pfizer and German biotech firm BioNTech will be shipped out and picked up from manufacturers by UPS, FedEx, and medical supply company McKesson for delivery to pharmacies, nursing homes, public clinics, hospitals, doctors’ offices, mobile clinics and military facilities.
Your local drugstore chains such as Walgreens and CVS are also expected to carry and administer the vaccine, most likely sometime in 2021.
Q: Who specifically is eligible for the vaccine now?
A: FDA regulators advise that it go out to essential workers and high risk people. Anyone 16 and older qualifies to receive the double dosages of the vaccine. Ultimately it’s up to State officials to determine who is first in line to get the shot.
Q: If we get the vaccine then what about the mask?
A: Forget the thought of giving up the mask right away. Until the studies show the necessary statistics in order to release massive amounts of vaccines across the US, medical experts must know the side effects before we can just take off the masks.
Q: I’m not high risk or an essential worker so what about me?
A: Unfortunately, you’re not at the top of priority list, but there is still some room for hope. I get that it’s unheard of to have a vaccine in less than a year, but because COVID-19 took so many lives it was important for the brightest and smartest to work quickly at getting a safe vaccine for those most at risk.
Q: What are the common side effects of the vaccine?
A: The FDA website states that the most reported side effects, which typically lasted several days, were “pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, and fever.” It’s important to know that most people experienced these side effects after the second administered dose.
Q: What is herd immunity? How many people need the vaccine in order for this to work?
A: According to the CDC, it’s still too soon for medical experts to know what percentage of people would need to get vaccinated to achieve herd immunity to COVID-19. The CDC website explains that “herd immunity is a term used to describe when enough people have protection—either from previous infection or vaccination—that it is unlikely a virus or bacteria can spread and cause disease. As a result, everyone within the community is protected even if some people don’t have any protection themselves. The percentage of people who need to have protection in order to achieve herd immunity varies by disease.”
Q: How much of the vaccine will Illinois be getting?
A: The first shipments of vaccine doses are being shipped out right now, even while you’re reading this. According to The NY Times, “An official in Illinois said the state is expected to receive about 109,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in its first shipment.”
Although doses are on the way, not all of the population will receive vaccines. Other manufacturers are testing samples of their version of the vaccine. The next step would be getting them approved and sent out in spring/summer 2021.
Q: How much will the vaccine cost?
A: According the Mayor Lori Lightfoot, the vaccine will be free to Chicago residence. However, according to the CDC, vaccination providers will be able to charge an administration fee for giving the shot to someone.
Now, what the studies haven’t shown yet is if this vaccine can prevent someone from carrying COVID-19 and spreading it to others. It’s possible that if someone has the carrier trait in their nasal passageway they can spread the virus through speaking, breathing, sneezing and so on. This is the main reason why we can’t stop wearing masks right after we get the vaccine. The vaccine will protect you from getting ill and ending up hospitalized.
Until we learn more from the trials, there is no one hundred percent certainty about anything that has to do with COVID-19. For that reason alone, those who get the vaccine should still be wearing masks, washing their hands often and practicing physical distancing. Visit Chicago.gov for more answers on how Chicago is working to heal from this virus.
By Brenae Scott, Alcorn State University Alumni
[email protected] iam_illinoize