The COVID-19 vaccine has signaled a potential end to the current global health pandemic, but there’s still a long way to go before coronavirus becomes a memory of the past. Currently, vaccine availability in the United States is limited, so only certain populations are eligible to receive the shot.
The vaccine (and the disease it aims to prevent) are still new. You might have lots of questions, including when you can get this sought-after shot. Continue reading for your crash course on the COVID-19 vaccine.
COVID-19 Vaccine Timeline in the U.S.
The rollout of the vaccine has focused on decreasing death and serious COVID-19 cases, preserving societal functions, and reducing impacts on individuals and communities already facing significant disparities from the virus. So, the first group eligible for the vaccine (Group 1a) consists of frontline healthcare workers and elderly individuals living in long-term care facilities. In the next phase of eligibility (Group 1b), the vaccine will also become available to all individuals over 75 as well as frontline essential workers outside of the healthcare industry. A final, overlapping phase (Group 1c) will include all people over 65 and individuals from 16-64 with underlying conditions.
Following this initial rollout, the vaccine is slated to become available to anyone who wants it in April 2021. However, the CDC has warned of potential delays that could push back widespread availability to fall of 2021. Even if you’ve already had coronavirus, experts still recommend receiving the vaccine when you are eligible to do so.
Receiving the Vaccine: What to Expect
There are two varieties of the COVID-19 vaccine that have been approved for distribution by the FDA. Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are shown to be about 95% effective at preventing disease after two doses. The first dose of the vaccine amps up your immune system while the second helps bolster immunity with antibodies to protect you from COVID-19. Doses should be spaced about 3-4 weeks apart. Additionally, it may take up to 2 weeks for you to have full protection from the shot after your second dose.
Reported side effects with the vaccine vary, in part because there are two different vaccines available. You should discuss possible side effects with your healthcare provider.
COVID-19 Vaccine Q&A
I’m a high-risk patient. How can I get the vaccine in an earlier phase of the vaccine rollout?
If you have a condition that puts you at higher risk for COVID-19 related complications, you may receive the vaccine sooner than the rest of the public. However, you may need to advocate for your immunization by asking your primary care physician about the vaccine.
Can I choose which vaccine I receive?
Because both vaccines have limited availability, you won’t be able to choose which one you receive. However, both have shown similar efficacy in clinical trials. It is worth noting that you should receive both doses of the same vaccine—for example, if your first dose is of the Moderna vaccine, the second should be as well.
Do I need both doses?
One dose of the vaccine will provide some level of protection, but you shouldn’t consider yourself immunized until both doses are administered. Even after the second dose, the vaccine will need time to work before offering its fullest protection.
Can I resume normal life after getting the vaccine?
Unfortunately, the vaccine isn’t a magic shot that can let you get back to your normal routine. While it will keep you from getting sick, it may not stop you from carrying the virus. Until there is widespread use of the vaccine, it won’t be safe to resume social activities without current precautions like mask-wearing and social distancing.
If you still have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine or you want to speak with a medical professional about your eligibility, set up a consultation with MeMD from the privacy and safety of home.