In 2020, the U.S. government launched Operation Warp Speed, with the goal of delivering safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines to the American public. Since then, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized two mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

While national vaccination efforts are now underway, some Americans have lingering questions about the effectiveness of the shots. Chris Kuhlman, PhD, DABT, CIH, Senior Toxicologist, is answering the most FAQs to help allay concerns and prevent the further spread of COVID-19.

How effective are the current COVID-19 vaccines?
According to national health experts, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are approximately 95 percent effective. However, it’s important to note both vaccines require two doses. The shots should be taken at least 21 days apart for Pfizer and at least 28 days apart for Moderna. Individuals will not be fully protected until they receive both doses.

When and where can the public receive the vaccine?
The CDC reports, “The vaccine will be rolled out in phases,” with priority given to frontline health care workers, first responders, and high-risk individuals, such as those living in long-term care facilities. To date, hospitals and pharmacies have been responsible for administering vaccines, with oversight from state health departments.

What is the cost of the vaccine?
As the CDC and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services say, “Whether or not they have health insurance, everyone in America will get the COVID-19 vaccine for free.” Insurance companies are expected to cover providers’ costs, and the government has allocated funds for uninsured individuals.

Is the shot recommended for those who have already had COVID-19?
Yes. That said, health experts recommend these individuals wait to get the vaccine until they are no longer sick or in isolation. Under current guidance, individuals must be 18 or older to get the vaccine. Pregnant women or those considering pregnancy should consult with their doctors.

How can individuals protect themselves against COVID-19 until they receive the vaccine?
Americans should continue to follow the CDC’s health and safety guidelines, including wearing cloth face coverings, practicing social distancing, and washing their hands frequently. Even if they receive the vaccine, the CDC recommends maintaining these daily practices.

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Any scientific or medical information included in this article is current as of the date of publication; however, public health knowledge of COVID-19 is rapidly developing. Readers are advised to monitor national, state and local public health agencies for current recommendations regarding any infectious disease.