Photo illustration sources: Getty Images/Tetra Images and Andriy Onufriyenko

Every Covid-19 Vaccine Question You’ll Ever Have, Answered

Clear guidance on everything you want to know about the vaccine (and then some)

Tara Haelle
Elemental
Published in
64 min readDec 11, 2020

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This FAQ will be frequently updated and added to as the vaccine process continues —the most recent update was on February 10, 2021. If you have a question that isn’t answered here, please let us know by commenting on this story, and we’ll consider it for our next update.

Exactly 272 days after the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a global pandemic, 90-year-old Margaret Keenan and 81-year-old William Shakespeare in the United Kingdom became the first two people in the world to receive a thoroughly tested Covid-19 vaccine. (Yes, China and Russia began vaccinating people much earlier, but it’s not clear how well-tested those vaccines are.) In fact, the race for a Covid-19 vaccine began less than two weeks after the world outside China learned of the disease, when the genetic sequence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was published on January 11.

Just a few days after the UK’s vaccinations began, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) allowing use of an mRNA vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech, and continues reviewing the application of another. Four other vaccine candidates are in the U.S. are in phase 3 trials, the final phase before a vaccine is submitted for approval. It’s been a whirlwind, but the next whirlwind is just beginning: actually getting vaccines to the public. The U.S. will need enough doses to vaccinate about 300 million people, estimated Saad Omer, PhD, MBBS, director of the Yale Institute for Global Health, which means 600 million doses if all the vaccines ultimately approved require two doses. As countless public health experts have said throughout the pandemic, vaccines don’t save lives — vaccinations do.

“The coming Covid-19 rollout will mark the first-ever attempt to vaccinate the entire population of the United States,” said Amber Cox, PhD, director of Public Health Epidemiology at Maximus

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Tara Haelle
Elemental

Tara Haelle is a science journalist, public speaker, and author of Vaccination Investigation and The Informed Parent. Follow her at @tarahaelle.