In December, the United States government approved Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine. This emergency approval makes the vaccine available for healthcare workers and people residing in a senior community, such as assisted-living. According to Marla Ahlgrimm, the coronavirus has taken nearly 300,000 lives in the United States, and this vaccine represents just one of many tools we have to reduce transmission.
Q: What is the coronavirus vaccine?
Marla Ahlgrimm: The coronavirus vaccine is like all other vaccines. It is an inactive version of the virus that is meant to allow the body to gain a better recognition of it so that it can fight it more effectively. Also like other vaccines, the coronavirus vaccine takes time to be effective. Currently, two doses are required, and it can take several weeks for immunity to kick in.
Q: How many doses of the vaccine are available?
Marla Ahlgrimm: The vaccine is still in production, but, currently, 6.4 billion are slated to be available by the first week of January. The first doses will be given to healthcare workers and elderly nursing home residents. These individuals will return for a second dose after approximately three weeks.
Q: Are all states required to distribute doses to these two demographics?
Marla Ahlgrimm: No. States are not required to do so, however, the vast majority have already pledged to follow the CDC’s recommendations. After healthcare workers and nursing home residents, additional essential workers, including those in food and agriculture, law enforcement, and community service are next in line.
Q: Is Pfizer the only company producing a vaccine?
Marla Ahlgrimm: No. Dozens of biotechnology companies are currently working on vaccine options. Pfizer’s was the first to be approved, although other vaccines are being discussed in December and January, and a few may also receive emergency approval. It should be noted that Pfizer’s vaccine was independently funded and researched, where other manufacturers took advantage of the government’s fast-track program, known as Operation Warp Speed.