Five things you need to know: The COVID-19 vaccine

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One step closer: Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE have applied for a FDA emergency use authorization for their coronavirus vaccine. (WYDaily/ Courtesy of Unsplash)
Here’s what you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine. (WYDaily/ Courtesy of Unsplash)

Coronavirus cases are rising throughout the country and while there are several vaccines on the horizon, many people are wondering when it will be available and just how soon life will return to normal.

Both Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE as well as Moderna have applied for emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for their COVID-19 vaccines.

Late Friday, the FDA granted authorization to Pfizer and German partner BioNtech.

The COVID-19 vaccine is different from regular vaccines because it does not have the actual coronavirus. Instead, people will get proteins which act like the virus to prompt the body to create antibodies thanks to messenger RNA technology. Two doses of the same vaccine are required for immunity.

While the FDA is still reviewing the companies’ applications, WYDaily asked the experts about the vaccine.

  1. Who gets the vaccine first and why? Health care staff and people in long-term care facilities per the recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization. Irene Ferrainolo, spokeswoman for the Peninsula Health District, wrote in an email Virginia is expected to get 480,000 doses for 480,000 people from Pfizer and Moderna by the end of December. “VDH [Virginia Department of Health] estimates that there are up to 500,000 HCP and LTCF residents in Virginia,” she added. Sentara Healthcare and Riverside Health System are making the vaccine optional for their employees.
  2. When will you get it? The average healthy person not considered high risk, not an essential worker or with with no pre-existing conditions can get the vaccine “as early as April and as late as June,” Ferrainolo said. But this timeline is just an estimate.
  3. How will the vaccine be distributed and when? TBD. VDH is working with the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association and the CDC to vaccinate long-term care facilities staff, and CVS and Walgreens through the Federal Long-Term Care Facilities Pharmacy Partnership to vaccinate residents. “Information on vaccination opportunities will be provided to HCP [healthcare personnel] by health systems and local health districts in the upcoming weeks,” Ferrainolo wrote.
  4. Is the vaccine free? Yes, but there’s a catch. “Private practice may charge an administration fee but no one can be turned away due to inability to pay,” Ferrainolo noted.
  5. Anything else I should know? You might want to get a flu shot. While the vaccine does not require people to get a flu shot, VDH recommends it.

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