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Who will receive the COVID-19 vaccine first and how will it be distributed?

Your coronavirus vaccine questions answered

Every day is another day closer to the approval of a potential COVID-19 vaccine, and one may even be ready for distribution as early as next month.

Pfizer Inc. and its German partner, BioNTech, recently announced that the vaccine appears to be 95% effective at preventing mild to severe COVID-19 disease, according to a report from The Associated Press.

The company asked U.S. regulators Friday to allow emergency use of its vaccine, which could be available for distribution as early as next month if it gets approved, the AP reports.

With that being said, not everyone will be able to get the vaccine at the same time due to quantity limits. So how will the vaccine get out to the public and be available to all residents?

Dr. Bryan Alsip, with University Health, says it’s a process that begins at the federal government level and will be distributed differently in each state.

“The vaccine is being acquired by the federal government in the United States, and those allotments are being distributed to the states,” Alsip said. “Each state has its own plan for distributing the vaccine.”

Dr. Alsip answered some other questions regarding the vaccine and what else we need to know before its release:

Who is in charge of distributing the vaccine?

“Initially, the vaccine will be distributed by those who receive the allotments, which will be primarily hospitals, public health departments and so forth. They’re going to be asked to immunize those at highest risk. That will include mostly health care workers and first responders. Over time, as more vaccine becomes available, it may be available at pharmacies. It may be available through physicians’ clinics or offices. It really depends on the distribution of the vaccine, availability and timing.”

When will we be able to get the vaccine at most pharmacies, like a flu shot?

“We don’t know. Again, the distribution of the vaccine is currently very tightly controlled, and we’re in limited supplies. As those supplies grow, they will start to be made available to the pharmacies. Pharmacies have also been contracted to make a certain number of vaccines available to high-risk populations.”

Once I get a vaccine, can I relax and stop worrying about all this masking and distance?

“Unfortunately, no. The vaccine should really be thought of as another tool in our toolbox to reduce the impact of this disease. There aren’t specific data about the vaccine itself preventing transmission. So it’s important for folks to continue to do what they’re doing.”

Emergency Use Authorization: How risky is that?

“Emergency Use Authorization allows the FDA to authorize a product that’s either not yet approved for a specific purpose or a product that has been approved for a separate purpose. This is something that has been used in the past for other pharmaceuticals. So it’s not a new concept, and again, the FDA is still going to be looking very closely at safety and efficacy data before they make a ruling.”

How do you encourage people to take a new vaccine that was made faster than the usual process when they’re already worried about vaccines?

“The steps used to create these COVID-19 vaccines are the same steps used to other vaccines. The reason it’s becoming available sooner than normal depends a lot on availability of financial resources that have been given to the vaccine manufacturers. That enables them to concentrate their resources -- to focus almost exclusively to manufacture vaccines.”

You can watch the full interview with Dr. Bryan Alsip in the video player above.

Have more questions? Let us know in the prompt below and tune into our Dec. 10 townhall with local experts to get answers.

RELATED: Pfizer, BioNTech seek emergency use of COVID-19 shots in US


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