COVID-19 vaccine facts: Hidden costs, when you can get vaccinated, choosing vaccine brands – CNET

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For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

This month, two COVID-19 vaccines were authorized by the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use in the US — Moderna and Pfizer. All 50 states have already received millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses, with states already administering the first set of shots, with the first person already receiving their second shot. Government leaders in the nation’s capital have also been receiving their first round of shots — President-elect Joe Biden received his on Dec. 21.

As you wait for your turn, there are a lot of questions we can help answer. Is a vaccination completely free or will you have to pay? How long will you personally have to wait to receive it, when will you know when you can get it and where, and is there anyone who shouldn’t get a COVID-19 vaccine right now?

There’s plenty we don’t know yet, but we’re keeping a close eye on the situation and will update this story as we learn more about the vaccine against COVID-19. Note that this story isn’t intended to serve as medical advice.

Read more: COVID-19 vaccines are safe, even with long-term data lacking

Two vaccines in the US are OK’d for emergency use

With the FDA’s approval of Moderna’s vaccine on Dec. 18, the United States now has two pharmaceutical companies’ COVID-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use to battle the pandemic. The FDA approved Pfizer’s vaccine on Dec. 11, and it’s now being distributed across the US.

In 2021, we can expect to see 1.3 billion doses from Pfizer and anywhere from 500 million to 1 billion doses from Moderna.

After you’re injected with the initial vaccine, a second dose is required after a set period of weeks (depending on which vaccine you get, it could be three or four weeks). This is required for both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to be effective. As a result, 20 million doses, for example, can vaccinate 10 million people. The US has a population of roughly 330 million people.

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You’ll need to get two coronavirus vaccine doses, weeks apart.


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When can I get the vaccine? Is there a specific order of who will receive it first?

Yes. Here’s a complete list of who will likely receive the COVID-19 vaccine first (and last).

Since the number of doses that can be made at one time is limited, states will prioritize which groups of people will be first in line to get the COVID-19 immunization. Every major global and domestic recommendation so far puts health care workers at the top of that list, with the general population last in line. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has posted guidelines, but each state will have the final word. 

Depending on who you are, you may have to wait until spring or summer, when there are enough vaccines to go around, in order to be immunized. 

Who shouldn’t get a COVID-19 vaccination?

The coronavirus vaccine is considered safe for the general population, but there may be some exceptions and some sensitive groups of people who are advised to consult their physician. For instance, children under 16 haven’t yet been cleared to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, and people who’ve experienced severe allergic reactions should speak to their doctors. Here’s more information about who might not get a coronavirus vaccine yet.

Where can I get the vaccine? Does it have to be at a hospital?

Much like the flu vaccine, the coronavirus vaccine will be available at pharmacy stores, clinics, hospitals, doctors’ offices and health departments. A Walgreen’s representative told CNET its pharmacies would be distributing COVID-19 vaccines to customers, but didn’t say when.

It’s also likely that schools and community centers will serve as vaccination sites in the beginning, in order to accommodate more people, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The organization also says the states will need to approve “hundreds to thousands of partners and site locations for vaccine delivery.”

Here’s a full list of what we know so far about where to find the COVID-19 vaccine where you live.

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Everyone in the US could be vaccinated by June.


Sarah Tew/CNET

How much will it cost to get the coronavirus vaccine?

Regardless of whether you have health insurance or not, the COVID-19 vaccine will be free for all Americans, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The government organization also said it plans to make sure you can get reimbursed for any FDA-approved coronavirus treatments you’re charged for. 

But just because the vaccine itself is free doesn’t mean you won’t get a bill. Many providers can legally charge an administration fee for giving the shot to patients, according to the CDC. You can file a claim with your insurance company, however, since they’re required to cover approved preventive care under the Affordable Care Act

Read more: Vaccine for COVID-19 may be free, but you could still see a bill. Here’s what we know

Why can’t kids get vaccinated for COVID-19 yet?

Kids will not be able to receive the coronavirus vaccines immediately. Dr. Jose Romero, a CDC advisor, said kids under the age of 18 could expect to get their shots in the second half of 2021, CNBC reported.

Moderna is planning to begin testing its vaccine on kids between the ages of 12 and 17 this year, but hasn’t yet begun the recruitment process, according to a Clinical Trials government study. Pfizer announced in October it would begin testing its vaccine on kids 12 and older. For now, it’s undetermined when the COVID-19 vaccine will be tested on kids ages 11 and younger.

How will I know when my kids and I are eligible to get vaccinated? What do we do in the meantime?

Your state and local health providers will start to communicate who can get immunized against COVID-19 first and how to do it. We’ll keep an eye out for more details and will update this section when we know more.

In the meantime, health experts stress that you should continue to wear a face mask, be socially distant from people outside your household, and wash your hands to slow the spread of disease. The US is currently over 14 million reported cases, with more than 276,000 known deaths, as infections continue to surge alongside record-breaking hospitalizations.

When will there be enough vaccines for everyone?

All adults in the US could be vaccinated against COVID-19 by June, according to Moncef Slaoui, the top science advisor for the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert, expects anyone to have access to the vaccine between April and June of 2021. Alex Azar, US Secretary of Health and Human Services, says the COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine could be available to anyone as early as late February to early March.

When you get the coronavirus vaccine, however, will depend on which group you fall in. You could get it in December if you’re a health care worker, or you may have to wait until June if you’re a younger adult with no preexisting conditions.

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Even if you get the vaccine, you should still wear a mask, per CDC guidelines.


Anne Dujmovic/CNET

Will getting two different vaccines make me more immune to the coronavirus?

Health experts recommend you don’t take more than one complete course of the coronavirus vaccine. Extremely limited supply makes it important that there are enough doses to immunize everyone. Past research hasn’t proved any benefit to receiving more than one vaccine for a given pathogen.

Is the coronavirus vaccine only a shot? Can I get it a different way?

The current immunization works as a series of two injections administered a number of weeks apart for the full inoculation to take place. Vaccine developers are also working on other ways to administer the COVID-19 immunization such as infusion, in which the vaccine is delivered intravenously, or an adhesive patch that you affix to your skin for a period of time.

What’s a COVID-19 vaccination card and what can I do with it?

The vaccination card you receive after getting your COVID-19 shot will be used to document which vaccine brand you received — not everyone will get the same vaccine, but it could be Pfizer or Moderna to start. The vaccination card will also be used as a reminder for when you need to go back for the second shot, which will take place between three and four weeks after the first injection, depending on the vaccine.

What it won’t be used as is a vaccine passport. In other words, it is not an official immunity certificate that could allow immunized people to return to the workplace, enter restaurants and stores, or visit foreign countries that have quarantine protocols in place.

Can I choose which coronavirus vaccine I get?

It’s uncertain if you’ll have your choice of which vaccine brand or type you’ll get. This may depend on how many doses of the vaccine are available in your area and where in line you are to receive it. 

It also depends on if you live near a medical center with “medical-grade ultracold freezers,” USA Today reports, as the Pfizer vaccine must be kept in cold, dry-ice temperatures. The Moderna vaccine, on the other hand, can be stored at temperatures between 36 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit for up to 30 days, making it much more easily accessible.

Note that once you get the first vaccine shot, you’ll have to stick with that brand for the second shot.

Expect other types of vaccines to emerge, like from Novavax and AstraZeneca in partnership with Oxford University. Dozens more are in development as well, and different countries may use different vaccine formulations from different makers.

What can I do after I get the COVID-19 vaccine? Can I go wherever I want and stop wearing a mask?

Once you get the first coronavirus vaccine, you’ll receive a vaccination card that details which shot you received and when you need to go back for the second (see above).

After you receive both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, the CDC recommends that you continue practicing social distancing and wearing a mask when you’re out in public. The CDC says it’s important to do so while “experts learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions.”

Even though scientific evidence so far shows reinfection is uncommon, there’s still much we don’t know about the new virus. That’s why it’s important to follow the CDC’s guidelines for protecting yourself and others from the coronavirus, whether you’ve had the vaccine or not.

For more coronavirus vaccine information, here’s why you should wear a mask even after getting COVID-19 or the vaccine and the CDC’s priority list for who will get the vaccine first.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.