Coronavirus vaccine: Ohio Department of Health answers frequently asked questions

With the first batch of coronavirus vaccines expected to arrive in Ohio next week, many have questions about when and how they can get the vaccine and if it is safe.

The Ohio Department of Health shared frequently asked questions on its website with answers regarding vaccine availability, safety, distribution and more.

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Here are the questions addressed by ODH and their answers:

Q: Is there a COVID-19 vaccine?

A: As of December 3, 2020, in the United States, two COVID-19 vaccines have submitted applications for emergency use authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). If granted, the vaccine could arrive in Ohio in limited supply for distribution to initial critical populations in December 2020.

Q: What is Operation Warp Speed?

A: Operation Warp Speed is a partnership between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense to help develop, produce, and distribute millions of vaccine doses for COVID-19 as quickly as possible while ensuring that vaccines are safe and effective. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is focused on vaccine planning, working closely with the Ohio Department of Health and other state partners to prepare for vaccination availability.

Q: Why is a COVID-19 vaccine needed if social distancing and wearing masks prevent COVID-19 virus from spreading?

A: Getting us through the pandemic requires using all the tools available. Vaccines boost your immune system so it will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. Other steps, like masks and social distancing, help reduce your chance of being exposed to or spreading the virus. Together, the coming COVID-19 vaccines and proper prevention measures will offer the best protection from COVID-19.

Q: How many COVID-19 vaccines are under development?

A: Multiple COVID-19 vaccines are under development. As of November 24, 2020, large-scale (Phase 3) clinical trials are in progress or being planned for five COVID-19 vaccines in the United States. As of December 3, 2020, two vaccines have applied for emergency use authorization (EUA) from the FDA.

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Q: How many doses of COVID-19 vaccine will be needed?

A: The two vaccines that have applied for emergency use authorization each require two doses. There is a vaccine in development and Phase 3 clinical trials that uses one dose. Ohioans who receive a dose of a particular vaccine must receive a second dose of the vaccine from the same manufacturer. For example, if you receive a first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, your second dose must be the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. If you receive a first dose of the Moderna vaccine, your second dose must be the Moderna vaccine.

Q: How will I know that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe?

A: The U.S. vaccine safety system ensures that all vaccines are as safe as possible. Safety is a top priority while federal partners work to make a coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine(s) available. Clinical trials study the effectiveness of the vaccine in thousands of study participants. Data from these trials will be provided to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to determine vaccine safety and effectiveness. The FDA uses rigorous standards during the evaluation and if it determines that a vaccine meets its safety and effectiveness requirements, it can make these available by approval or emergency use authorization. After FDA makes its determination, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will review available data before making final vaccine recommendations to the CDC. There have been no shortcuts in the vaccine development process. The COVID-19 vaccine development process involved several steps comparable with those used to develop other vaccines, such as the flu or measles vaccine.

Q: Who is paying for the COVID-19 vaccine?

A: The federal government is committed to providing free or low-cost COVID-19 vaccines. Vaccine doses purchased with taxpayer dollars will be given to Ohioans who choose to receive them at no cost.

Q: Will there be enough vaccine for everyone in Ohio?

A: When FDA first authorizes or approves the use of one or more COVID-19 vaccines in the United States, there may be a limited supply. This would mean that not everyone will be able to be vaccinated right away but, in time, as vaccination production ramps up, every Ohioan who chooses may receive a vaccine as soon as large quantities are available.

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Q: Will Ohio make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory?

A: No.

Q: Are there special considerations on who will receive the COVID-19 first in Ohio?

A: At first, there will be a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine. The federal government will work to get those first vaccine doses out once a vaccine is authorized, approved, and recommended, rather than waiting until there are enough vaccines for everyone. However, it is important that the initial vaccines are given to people in a fair, ethical, and transparent way. Those who are at highest risk of contracting and transmitting the virus will be among the first to be able to access vaccination.

Q: Who can get the vaccine first in Ohio?

A: Initially, there will be a limited number of vaccines available, and Ohio is committed to making it widely available, for those that want to receive it, as quickly as possible as shipments of vaccine arrive. In conjunction with the recommendations of medical experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), Ohio has identified who will be among the first to receive those very early shipments in Phase 1A, should they choose to be vaccinated, listed below.

  • Healthcare providers and personnel who are routinely involved with the care of COVID-19 patients.
  • Residents and staff at nursing facilities.
  • Residents and staff at assisted living facilities.
  • Patients and staff at psychiatric hospitals.
  • People with intellectual disabilities and those with mental illness who in group homes or centers and staff at those locations
  • Residents and staff of Ohio’s veterans homes.
  • EMS responders.
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Q: How many vaccines are available?

A: Vaccine manufacturers are working hard to manufacture and distribute vaccines safely, quickly, and effectively. Each state will be informed, on a weekly basis, of how many vaccine doses they will receive that week.

Q: If I am in an eligible audience, how will I know when I can get the vaccine during Phase 1? Who do I call?

A: We are working closely with vaccine providers and local health departments at this time to determine the best process for eligible audiences to use during the initial vaccination phase. During Phase 1A, the following providers will be responsible for distributing vaccines to the following audiences:

  • Essential workers in healthcare settings – hospitals and health systems.
  • Long-term care/nursing home residents and staff – CVS and Walgreens.
  • Congregate care staff and residents, EMS first responders, any remaining long-term care facility staff – local health departments.

Q: I am not in one of the audiences that has been announced. When can I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

A: Initially, there will be a limited number of vaccines available, so we are committed to making it widely available, for those that want to receive it, as quickly as possible as shipments of the COVID-19 vaccines arrive in Ohio. Ohio continues to make plans for a way to distribute vaccines in a way that is fair, ethical, and transparent, in conjunction with the recommendations of medical experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). As more information becomes available on who can receive the vaccine when, we will communicate this information publicly including through the news media and share information at coronavirus.ohio.gov/vaccine.

Q: When will the other distribution phases begin?

A: As vaccine supply increases, Ohio will be able to continue to vaccinate Ohioans who choose to receive the vaccine. The speed at which Ohio will move through the phases is largely dependent upon the number of vaccines available.

Q: Will my children be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine?

A: Once a vaccine is available, there will be guidance on who should receive it from the vaccine manufacturer. The bottom line is that Ohioans should be able to obtain safe, effective vaccines for themselves and their families if they choose according to manufacturers’ guidelines once it is widely available.

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Q: If I already had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine when it is available?

A: Not enough is known about how long natural immunity lasts for those that have recovered from the virus. Until we have a vaccine available and know more about natural immunity to COVID-19, the CDC will not comment on whether people who had COVID-19 should get a COVID-19 vaccine. The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will make recommendations to CDC on who should get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Q: Can other vaccines help prevent me from getting COVID-19?

A: Other vaccines, such as those for flu, measles, or other diseases, will not protect you from COVID-19. Only the vaccines designed specifically to protect you from COVID-19, once approved for use by the FDA, can prevent COVID-19. While a flu vaccine will not prevent you from getting COVID-19, it can prevent you from getting influenza (flu) at the same time as COVID-19. Because the flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both be spreading during this time, getting a flu vaccine will be more crucial than ever.

Anyone with questions regarding coronavirus can call the Ohio Department of Health’s COVID-19 hotline at 1-833-4-ASK-ODH (1-833-427-5634).

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