With a vaccine finally available to protect people against COVID-19, it would seem as if the long, dark, depressing pandemic is finally drawing to an end. But before anyone lets their guard down too much, it’s important to understand what a vaccine actually means—and what it doesn’t.
The biggest challenge right now? The limited supply of vaccines. According to Tonii Gedin, deputy health officer with Anne Arundel County Department of Health, “There are far more people in need of the vaccine than we have the vaccine, which is the case pretty much everywhere.”
Anne Arundel County has more than 500,000 residents, but Gedin says the county receives only about 5,000 weekly doses. This is why the vaccine is being distributed in phases, with priority given to those who have the greatest need, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). How quickly the county progresses through the phases will depend on vaccine availability, vaccine allotment, and interest level.
Vaccines for Kids?
Right now, the vaccine is only recommended for adults and children ages 16 and up, but that may change soon. Pfizer and Moderna, the manufacturers of the two vaccines approved for use, started enrolling children ages 12–15 back in October 2020 to determine safety and any possible side effects. But children aren’t just miniature adults—their bodies function differently, and a vaccine therefore might affect them differently, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
After Pfizer and Moderna determine their vaccines are safe for adolescents, they will move on to studying ages 5 to 11. The hope is that there is enough data by spring 2020 to apply for authorization from the FDA and have a vaccine available to children before the start of the 2021–2022 school year.
Health experts emphasize that safety measures like masks and social distancing may have to continue once everyone is vaccinated. This will allow doctors and scientists a chance to fully understand the level of protection the vaccine provides and how long immunity lasts.
Some families may have concerns about the safety of the vaccine, but the CDC emphasizes that anything introduced to consumers has undergone rigorous studies. Furthermore, for those with allergies, the vaccine is free of preservatives, eggs, and latex.
Last but not least—have patience. “We understand how important this is to people, and we are working our hardest to make sure we are moving this vaccine out as soon as we can,” says Gedin. “Unfortunately, with the current amount of vaccine availability in the country, we ask [that] people be patient. We’ll keep plugging away to make sure every resident gets access to the vaccine, but it takes time.”
Those who have questions about the vaccine can check out the CDC’s website and select “Vaccines” under the left column.