The Pfizer vaccine is approved: Now what?

Published: 12/22/2020 Times Read: 1844 Comments : 0

It’s been nearly a year since the first cases of COVID-19 were reported. Now, we’re collectively sighing a huge breath of relief as the first COVID-19 vaccine, produced by Pfizer, is being rolled out to healthcare workers across the country. While this is wonderful news, we still have a long way to go, and we need to continue taking precautions to protect one another until the general population is able to get vaccinated. You probably have tons of questions going through your head—Is the Pfizer vaccine safe? When can I get it? What kind of trial tests did scientists perform? Since this vaccine is brand new, we’re all still learning together. We compiled a list of everything we know so far to help keep you updated and informed. 

Yes, the Pfizer vaccine is safe

The company ran small clinical trials back in May to look for any warning signs regarding the vaccine’s safety. After testing four different versions of their vaccine, they found no severe side effects and selected the one that produced the fewest symptoms. According to the FDA, the most common side effects are reactions at the point of injection on the body, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, and fever—all common vaccine side effects. So yes, the Pfizer vaccine is safe; however, it’s unclear right now how safe it is for pregnant women and children under 16. 

How many doses are initially available?

The US government has officially secured 100 million doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Since everyone needs two doses of the vaccine, 100 million doses would vaccinate 50 million people. Pfizer and the Trump administration are currently nearing an agreement that would “provide the United States with more than 50 million doses, but fewer than 100 million, probably spread over the second and third quarters of 2021.” Although this doesn’t yet cover the country’s entire population, it’s good news that the government has already secured millions of doses and is working hard to secure more as quickly as possible. 

Who gets the vaccine first?

This has been a topic of conversation ever since talk of vaccine developments began emerging. Since supply of the Pfizer Coronavirus vaccine will be limited at first, the CDC recommends that the initial supply be given to healthcare personnel and long-term care facility residents. This recommendation was made based on three main goals: decrease death and the spread of the virus, preserve a functioning society, and reduce the extra burden COVID-19 is having on those facing disparities. As vaccine availability increases, the CDC will update these guidelines and continue making recommendations on who should get the vaccine next.

When will it be available to the general public?

Currently, the CDC is relying on a four-phase plan to distribute vaccines. Following healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents, the next groups in line for the vaccine would be essential workers at high risk of infection, other emergency personnel, and people with underlying conditions. Unfortunately, it will likely still be months before the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is available to the general public. However, Dr. Anthony Fauci optimistically predicted that once vaccines are widely available and distributed, the country could achieve herd immunity by the end of the second quarter of 2021. 

What should you do in the meantime?

Until vaccines are widely available for the general public, everyone should continue taking the proper precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19—wear a mask in public, social distance, limit your contact to those within your own household if possible, wash your hands frequently with soap and water, and stay home if you’re sick. Everything we’ve been doing since March is still very important. While the approval and initial distribution of a vaccine is great news and a huge step in the right direction, it’s not an immediate solution. Now is not the time to give up. As a country, we need to continue to protect each other so we can overcome this final hurdle.

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