Now that there are authorized and recommended vaccines to prevent COVID-19 in the United States, here are some things you need to know about the new COVID-19 vaccines.
What is the latest news on the COVID-19 vaccine?
Two COVID-19 vaccines are currently approved under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). Both vaccines are administered as two doses given 3-4 weeks apart. The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is approved for people ages 18 and over and the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is approved for people ages 16 and over. More vaccines are in development.
When will the general public receive the vaccine?
Starting in mid-December, vaccination started for higher risk healthcare personnel and nursing home patients. In January, several regions started vaccinating people ages 75 and over. On January 13, 2021, California allowed vaccination administration for everyone ages 65 and over.
Each county’s health department handles vaccine allocation and distribution. Please visit your county’s health department website for most up-to-date information. Below is information for several of the Hill Physicians counties.
Other distribution will occur in phases according to expert recommendations and availability of the vaccine.
Where can I get the vaccine once it becomes available?
Currently, many provider practices are not able to order and store the COVID-19 vaccine so you may not be able to get it at your doctor’s office. At this time, the best way to get your COVID-19 vaccine is through your county’s health department. Please visit your county’s local health department website for more information on vaccine availability and appointment scheduling. Please see above for links to counties currently allowing COVID-19 vaccinations for people ages 65 and over.
In addition to local health departments, retail pharmacies are expected to start offering COVID-19 vaccination appointments soon. Please see below for links to COVID-19 vaccine information from several retail pharmacies:
- CVS: Please visit CVS website to check COVID-19 vaccine availability in California and verify your eligibility.
- Rite-Aid: Please visit Rite-Aid website for vaccine availability updates.
- Safeway: Expected to start scheduling COVID-19 vaccination appointments soon. Please visit Safeway website for more information and to sign up for updates.
- Walgreens: Vaccine may be available in select location for eligible individuals. Please visit Walgreens website for eligibility requirements and appointment scheduling instructions.
How many doses are needed and why?
COVID-19 vaccines being approved in the United States require two shots. The first shot starts building protection, but everyone must come back a few weeks later for the second one to get the most protection the vaccine can offer.
Is the vaccine safe to get?
COVID-19 vaccines were tested in large clinical trials to make sure they meet safety standards. Many people were recruited to participate in these trials to see how the vaccines offer protection to people of different ages, races, and ethnicities, as well as those with different medical conditions.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) carefully reviews all safety data from the clinical trials and authorizes emergency vaccine use only when the expected benefits outweigh the potential risks.
What are the possible side effects?
Patients may have mild side effects from the vaccine. Most people do not have serious problems after being vaccinated. Your arm may be sore, red, or warm to the touch. These symptoms usually go away on their own within a week. Some people report getting a headache or a fever after getting a vaccine. These side effects are a sign that your immune system is doing exactly what it is supposed to do. It is working and building up protection to disease.
If I get vaccinated, can I go back to life as normal?
Not right away. It will still be important for those who received the vaccine to continue to wear masks, wash hands and practice social distancing prevent the spread of infection. As more people get the vaccine and become immune to the virus, it will eventually become possible to stop wearing masks and practice social distancing.
What about kids? Can they get the vaccine too?
Currently, the vaccine is approved for people ages 16 and older. As more clinical trials on kids come to completion, the vaccine is likely to be approved to additional age groups.
Where can I find out more information about the COVID vaccine?