Answering Initial Questions About the COVID-19 Vaccine
The fight against the virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be turning a corner, as drug companies begin to present vaccines to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approval under its Emergency Use Authorization protocol.
“The world is watching as the FDA evaluates and considers these vaccines,” says Adam R Stracher, MD, Chief Medical Officer at Weill Cornell Medicine. “As a medical center that served as a site for Moderna’s phase 3 clinical trial, we’re especially mindful of how much this means to the entire Weill Cornell Medicine community, from our researchers and providers, to our patients.”
The vaccines will be available to general public in early 2021, so there is no need to contact your provider to schedule an appointment at this time. We also created this Covid-19 Vaccine guide to help keep the community informed about our role in its ongoing distribution.
We also encourage you to make sure you have an active Weill Cornell Connect account, and to make sure you’ve been on top of your routine medical care. That way, when we are ready to widely distribute a COVID-19 vaccine, you’ll find out about it as soon as possible, and your health, insurance, and account information will be up to date.
Information about the vaccine is developing, and we will update you as it becomes available. Here are some answers to initial questions about the vaccine.
Why are vaccines important? How do vaccines work?
Vaccines prevent disease. They do this by allowing a person to develop immunity to a disease, as if they’d been exposed to the disease itself. Vaccines contain a weakened or killed version of the disease agent (virus or bacteria), or part of the disease agent, to prepare the immune system to produce antibodies that fight the disease.
Even after a patient is given a vaccine, its safety is tracked and recorded by a national safety surveillance program, co-sponsored by the FDA and CDC.
When will the vaccine begin to be distributed?
The goal of Operation Warp Speed—a government-driven effort to accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 safe vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics—is to begin administering a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of 2020, and the beginning of 2021.
Who will be among the first people to receive the vaccine?
According to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the first people to receive the COVID-19 vaccine will be healthcare providers and residents of long-term care facilities.
Will there be enough of the vaccine for everyone who is eligible for the vaccine to receive it?
As vaccines begin to be approved, supply will continually be distributed. After healthcare providers and long-term care facility patients receive the first doses of the vaccine, additional doses are expected to become more widely available.
Are the COVID-19 vaccines recommended for children?
Since only non-pregnant adults participated in the early clinical trials for various COVID-19 vaccines, it may not be recommended for children at first. However, clinical trials continue to expand their recruitment into more populations and the groups recommended to receive the vaccines could grow in the near future.
If Operation Warp Speed has accelerated vaccine development, how will I know the vaccine is safe?
All vaccines—including those the FDA is considering as part of Operation Warp Speed—go through a rigorous process of development and testing. That rigor is not compromised as part of the effort, only its pace.
As the CDC explains, there are six general stages of vaccine development:
- Exploratory stage
- Pre-clinical stage
- Clinical development
- Regulatory review and approval
- Quality control
Clinical development itself is a three-phase process. In Phase I, small groups of people receive the trial vaccine. Phase II expands the clinical study by giving the vaccine to people who have characteristics similar to those for whom the new vaccine is intended. In Phase III the vaccine is given to thousands of people, and is tested for efficacy and safety.
What is herd immunity, and what role does it play in vaccine prevention?
Herd immunity, also called community immunity, occurs when a sufficient proportion of a population is immune to an infectious disease (through vaccination and/or prior illness) to make its spread from person to person unlikely. It can help protect those who are not eligible to be vaccinated, such as newborns, or those with chronic illnesses.
If I’m not yet eligible for the vaccine, what can I do to avoid the virus that causes COVID-19?
In addition to washing your hands, wearing a mask, and keeping six feet between yourself and people who don’t live in your household, you should monitor yourself carefully for symptoms if you think you may have been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19. Here’s information about getting tested for COVID-19.
We also encourage you to make sure you have an active Weill Cornell Connect account, and to make sure you’ve been on top of your routine medical care. That way, when WCM is ready to widely distribute a COVID-19 vaccine, you’ll find out about it as soon as possible, and your health, insurance, and account information will be up to date.