An Update on the COVID-19 Vaccine Timeline

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In December 2020, two COVID-19 vaccines became available for public use, although not everyone will be vaccinated right away. That’s not because COVID-19 case rates have slowed down – on the other hand, to date, approximately 19 million Americans have had confirmed novel coronavirus infections and 345,841 Americans have died of COVID-19. Here’s an update on when more COVID-19 vaccines might become available.

Which vaccines has the FDA approved?

On December 11, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Pfizer’s application for its COVID-19 vaccine. A week later, on December 18, the FDA likewise approved Moderna’s Emergency Use Authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine.

Who has already gotten vaccines?

On December 14, approximately 2.9 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccines were shipped nationwide to vaccinate 21 million healthcare, 3 million residents of long-term assisted care facilities, and select other priority recipients. Additionally, on December 21, approximately 7.9 million doses of both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines were shipped. According to data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, approximately 3.17 million vaccines have been administered to date in the United States.

Who gets vaccines next?

The CDC has announced that the second priority group for COVID-19 vaccines comprises frontline essential workers and people at least 75 years old. This group includes approximately 49 million people. The third group of vaccine recipients and the ongoing first round of recipients are projected to comprise 50 million people, who would all be vaccinated by February.

The CDC classifies frontline essential workers as first responders, teachers, school support staff, the United States Postal Service, and people who work in corrections, public transportation, food and agriculture, manufacturing, and grocery stores. Additionally, the CDC says that people 75 and over represent approximately one-quarter of COVID-19 hospitalizations and 60 percent of U.S. COVID-19 deaths. 

The third on the priority list consists of people over 65 years old and people with preexisting conditions. Around May to July, everyone else in the United States who wants to get a vaccine will most likely have access.

Will more vaccines be approved?

Currently, three other companies are developing COVID-19 vaccines. All three companies’ vaccine candidates are in the final stages of United States clinical trials. One of these candidates will require only one shot, unlike the aforementioned Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. This vaccine could be approved in January.

Do vaccines mean no more wearing masks? 

Despite the recent rollout of vaccines, face mask use will remain necessary since millions of people are still not vaccinated. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), future public mask use will depend on the number of COVID-19 cases in a region and a person’s own unique circumstances. 

Fauci also said that if a regional population achieves herd immunity, mask use may no longer be necessary if no COVID-19 cases occur in the area. That said, Fauci recommended continuing to wear masks in crowded areas for extra safety no matter how uncommon COVID-19 cases eventually become.

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