The Coronavirus Vaccine: Everything You Need to Know

Macaela MacKenzie
·3 min read

The U.S. reached a dark milestone in early November 2020: 10 million reported coronavirus cases. But there's also big news on the coronavirus vaccine front. On November 9, 2020,  Pfizer and German drugmaker BioNTech announced that data from their coronavirus vaccine trial shows the vaccine is more than 95% effective in preventing COVID-19, per the New York Times.

On November 16, a second vaccine from Moderna, which uses similar technology, was reported to be 94.5% effective in preventing COVID-19. “These are obviously very exciting results,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN. “It's just as good as it gets—94.5% is truly outstanding.” One difference between the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is that the Moderna version does not have to be stored at as cold a temperature, which could make distribution easier. (In a delightful twist, news broke on November 17 that the $1 million Dolly Parton donated to coronavirus research at Vanderbilt University actually helped fund Moderna's vaccine.)  

In February 2021, a single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine was also authorized by the FDA.

So what does this mean about when you’ll actually be able to get a coronavirus vaccine? Here’s everything you need to know.

Will the coronavirus vaccines be safe?

The FDA is responsible for making sure that any fast-tracked vaccine not only works but is safe. “The vaccine must go through a minimum of three phases before approval,” says Purvi Parikh, M.D., an allergist and immunologist with the Allergy and Asthma Network. “The last being the most thorough with a minimum of 30,000 individuals tested, especially those in high-risk groups such as the elderly, those with diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, and racial groups with health disparities.” 

How long will you have immunity from the coronavirus?

The short answer: Experts don’t know how long immunity from the coronavirus vaccine will last. The vaccine may offer protection for life, or it may act more like the flu vaccine and last only a few months.

Can you still spread coronavirus after receiving the vaccine?

According to the CDC, people who've been vaccinated do not appear to carry or spread the disease to others. CDC director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show on March 29, 2021, to explain the new research found after conducting a large real-world study of vaccinated people.

“Vaccinated people do not carry the virus, don't get sick, and that is not just in the clinical trials but it's also in real-world data,” Walensky explained. That data came from a CDC study of about 4,000 essential workers who received either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. The people in the study were vaccinated and tested for coronavirus every week for 13 weeks while taking part in daily life in the United States.

Will you need a vaccine if you’ve already had coronavirus?

It’s uncertain whether the millions of people around the world who have had COVID-19 and recovered will need to get a vaccine. A vaccine trial run by Astra Zeneca is including recovered patients in its trials, says Parikh, but the Pfizer trial does not. “As we learn more we will have better guidelines, but I personally feel as an immunologist that everyone should receive it as we are seeing cases of reinfection and some are more severe the second time,” she says.

When will people be able to start getting vaccinated?

In March 2021, President Joe Biden announced there will be enough vaccine doses for every adult American by the end of May. 

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“About three weeks ago, we were able to say that we’ll have enough vaccine supply for adults by the end of July, and I'm pleased to announce today, as a consequence of this stepped-up process that I've ordered and just outlined, this country will have enough vaccine supply…for every adult in America by the end of May,” he said. 

Macaela MacKenzie is a senior editor at Glamour. 

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Originally Appeared on Glamour