The first phase of COVID-19 vaccinations began December 14th, following the FDA’s emergency authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 11. There is a lot that is still unclear about the vaccine process, such as who exactly will receive it, but here’s what we know so far:
- ICU Nurse, Sandra Lindsay, of Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, New York City, was one of the first nurses in the US to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine was administered on video.
- The first shipments of the vaccine have departed the Kalamazoo, MI Pfizer facility, heading out to bring the vaccine to all 50 states. The boxes of vaccines were carefully packed with both a GPS and thermal sensor, as the vaccine has to be kept at -94 Fahrenheit in order to keep the mRNA in the vaccine intact. 2.9 doses of the vaccine are set to be distributed this week, according to the New York Times.
- The vaccines will be distributed at a state level, so it’s up to each state to figure out who gets the vaccine, how, and where. In general, states are following CDC recommendations on vaccine administration. The CDC recommended that healthcare workers at high risk for exposure and long-term care residents receive the vaccine first.
- The specifics of the vaccine administration will be a challenge that state public health officials will be faced with this week; there is no centralized framework for funding, vaccine administration sites or staffing, or protocol for tracking who has received the vaccine and who is due for their second shot. (The Pfizer vaccine is given in 2 doses, 3 weeks apart. That means you have to receive 2 separate injections, 3 weeks apart, in order for the vaccine to be effective.)
- If you are a person who has been identified to receive the vaccine in the first phase, but you are pregnant or lactating, it is important for you to realize that you do have a right to receive the vaccine. While some facilities and organizations have, in the past, tried to restrict pregnant and breastfeeding individuals from receiving vaccines, the decision should be between you and your healthcare provider. Pregnant people typically are not included in vaccine or drug trials, which means there is officially very little data on the safety of any vaccine or medication during pregnancy. In the U.S., the ACOG has issued a formal recommendation that pregnant and lactating individuals not be excluded from the vaccine distribution. In Britain, however, the opposite approach was taken: they recommend that pregnant people do not get the vaccine and that pregnancy be avoided for the first two years after the second dose is given.
- The only people who should not get the vaccine as of now are people who have severe allergic reactions to vaccines in the past, or those who have had reactions to any of the ingredients in the vaccine.
- According to the FDA, the most common reported side effects of the Pfizer vaccine are: pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, and fever. The NYT does note that even the mild side effects could cause healthcare professionals to miss a day or two of work, so the vaccine administration could pose additional challenges.
Because vaccine distribution is a state-led approach, the best place to check if you are eligible for a vaccine would be with your state health department. If you are a medical professional, your licensing bureau may also have some direction.
Article By: Chaunie Brusie