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With not just one, but three Covid-19 vaccines under consideration and expected to roll out before the end of the year, patients and healthcare providers are preparing for what may be an historic, record-breaking vaccination drive. This short FAQ covers key “W’s” such as what, when, who, and “will the vaccine make me feel sick?”

What Covid-19 vaccines will be available first?

At present three candidates have applied for emergency use authorization (EUA). The manufacturers are Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca. Pfizer and Moderna have produced the first vaccines for humans based on messenger RNA technology; the AstraZeneca vaccine makes use of a harmless cold-causing virus. For a full graphic explanation of all three vaccines see this Washington Post article.

When will they start to administer the first Covid vaccine in the US?

Pfizer’s EUA will be evaluated by the FDA on December 10 and Moncef Slaoui, the chief science adviser for Operation Warp Speed, says that if approved, administration of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine could begin as soon as 24 hours later, on the 11th or 12th. The Moderna vaccine is likely to be approved shortly thereafter, and is expected to be in use by mid-December. Most experts predict that the vaccines will be available to the general public by April.

Do all three Covid-19 vaccine candidates require booster shots?

Each of the three vaccine candidates is administered in two shots, with the second shot to be administered three weeks to a month later, depending on which vaccine is used. Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine is still in limbo, and they are now working on a two-shot version of the vaccine, so it is almost certain that the first vaccines will all require two shots.

Who will receive the first Covid-19 vaccinations?

To date, there has been no official ruling to designate the initial vaccine recipients. Dr. Slaoui has announced that after the EUA is approved, the CDC and an advisory panel will then issue recommendations regarding the first groups to be vaccinated. However, there is little doubt about the issue, as most experts have recommended that frontline healthcare workers be… at the front of the line for the Covid-19 vaccine, along with first responders and essential workers.

What sorts of side effects have been seen, and what should I expect?

As with most vaccines, your Covid-19 vaccine shot is designed to activate your immune response, and reactogenicity may cause discomfort for a few days. Don’t be surprised if you feel fatigued, mildly feverish, or have headaches or muscle and joint aches. The likelihood of side-effects is not unusual, but if—as hoped—an unprecedented number of Americans receive the Covid-19 vaccines, sheer numbers will make side-effects seem more common. As Science magazine notes, “Fewer than 2% of recipients of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines developed severe fevers of 39°C to 40°C. But if the companies win regulatory approvals, they’re aiming to supply vaccines to 35 million people globally by the end of December. If 2% experienced severe fever, that would be 700,000 people.”

However, weighed against the dangers of spreading or falling ill from a virus that has taken over 250,000 American lives in less than a year, a brief fever from a Covid-19 vaccine could be viewed as a harbinger of returning normalcy.

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Koren Thomas
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