Your Top Questions Answered: Vaccines
Question: When will a vaccine for COVID-19 be available?
Answer: Emergency use authorization (EUA) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was granted Dec. 11, 2020, with similar FDA approval of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine anticipated later in the month. The first allocations of the Pfizer vaccine are expected to arrive in all 50 states, beginning Dec. 14, 2020, with distribution to more than 600 locations. The first allocation arrived at UC San Diego Health on Dec. 15, 2020; inoculations are expected to begin within the next few days.
Question: Who will be vaccinated first?
Answer: Per guidance for the CDC, FDA and public health experts, the first doses will go to health care workers at UC San Diego Health who are deemed at greatest risk of exposure to COVID-19, such as emergency department staff, critical care staff, trauma staff, respiratory therapists and personnel with face-to-face patient care in urgent care clinics. Even with vaccinations starting, we must continue to follow all current measures designed to slow viral spread and infection, from masking and distancing to hand washing and activating exposure notifications through CA NOTIFY.
Question: How do the vaccines work?
Answer: Different vaccines are employing different methodologies, both well-tested and new. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines, and represent a newer approach. These vaccines give our cells the instructions to produce a harmless piece of the virus' characteristic spike protein. Our immune systems recognize the spike protein as "foreign" and build an immune response against it. Then, if our bodies are exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the future, our immune systems are already prepared to help prevent us from getting sick. It is important to note that none of the current leading vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Janssen) contain whole SARS-CoV-2 virus; they cannot infect you with COVID-19.