Health Features

Q&A: COVID-19 Vaccines

As you read this, the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have likely already arrived in St. Louis. At the time of writing, three pharmaceutical companies have vaccines waiting for approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Even after they are cleared, there are likely to be short supplies initially. While the goal is to start immunizations before the end of 2020, many of us won’t be vaccinated until 2021. Make sure to check with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to stay up to date on the latest developments.

How is vaccine distribution being planned?
The CDC is working with local, federal and private agencies to create plans to widely distribute COVID-19 vaccines. The federal government also has been investing in manufacturers to help increase their ability to more quickly create and distribute large quantities of vaccines. The goal is to efficiently increase the supply in the weeks and months following FDA approval.

Who gets vaccinated first?
The first doses will go to health care workers. The CDC also has recommended that employees and residents of long-term care facilities, like assisted living communities and skilled nursing facilities, be among the first to receive the vaccine. The federal government is working with Walgreens and CVS to provide immunization for those communities.

Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe?
COVID-19 vaccines were tested to ensure they meet safety standards. People of various races, ethnicities and ages, as well as those with different medical conditions, participated in large clinical trials to show how the vaccines work on different people. The FDA carefully reviews data from these trials, and the FDA and CDC will continue to monitor the safety of the vaccines.

Will kids receive the vaccine?
Initially, the COVID-19 vaccine may not be recommended for children. The clinical trials conducted this year focused on testing safety and efficacy in adults. Additional studies will be necessary to determine how it affects kids.

How much will the vaccine cost?
Doses purchased with taxpayer money will be offered to the public at no cost. Vaccination providers may charge an administration fee, but it can be reimbursed through health insurance or the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund for uninsured patients.

If someone has had COVID-19 and recovered, do they still need to get a vaccine?
According to the CDC, there is not enough information about the natural immunity provided by having recovered from COVID-19. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will need to make a recommendation once the vaccine is available.

get in line
Want a better idea of when you can expect to receive a vaccine? The New York Times can give you a little perspective on the demand in each state and county. Working with the Surgo Foundation and Ariadne Labs, it has created an online calculator that uses basic info like your age and profession to estimate how many people have higher priority for vaccination.

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