Now that several companies are starting to release their coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine clinical trial results, you probably have some questions about the vaccines and when you and your family can expect to receive them. To help you, we’ve compiled some FAQs about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Which vaccines are currently showing promise?

There are currently five vaccines supported by the United States that are in phase 3 clinical trials. Two vaccines — one created by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech, and the other created by Moderna — recently announced that clinical trials have shown their vaccines are more than 90 percent effective.

This is great news, since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had previously said that it would give emergency authorization to any vaccine that had a 50 percent or higher efficacy rate. For comparison, flu (influenza) vaccines are generally 40 to 60 percent effective and two doses of the measles vaccine are 97 percent effective.

Pfizer and Moderna have also reported no serious safety concerns from their vaccines, although some participants have reported sore arms, fatigue, fever and joint and muscle aches that last for a day or two.

Within weeks, both Pfizer and Moderna are expected to apply for emergency authorization from the FDA to begin vaccinating the public.

When will vaccine distribution start?

Before the vaccine can be distributed, the FDA needs to review the data from the vaccine companies to make sure the vaccine is safe and effective. This could take weeks. Both Pfizer and Moderna are producing doses in anticipation of positive results, and, if there are no unforeseen delays, vaccine distribution could start before the end of the year.

However, most experts think that even if a vaccine is authorized in the next few months, it won’t be widely available to the general public until well into 2021.

Who will get the vaccine first?

Exactly who will get the vaccine first has not yet been decided, but groups that are higher risk for infection — such as health care workers, older adults and people with risk factors such as diabetes and obesity — are likely to get priority.

When will my child get the vaccine?

Because children’s bodies are so different from adult bodies, it’s important to thoroughly test the COVID-19 vaccines on them as well. Children’s immune systems respond differently so we won’t know the safety and efficacy of an adult vaccine until we do trials in children.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is urging federal agencies to support timely, but safe, development of COVID-19 vaccines for children, to help understand any potential unique immune responses and/or safety concerns in children.

Currently, most of the phase 3 clinical trials underway in the United States are only open to people 18 and older, so additional trials need to occur. Only Pfizer has started a new trial that is open to children 12 years and older. You can expect initial testing to occur in teenagers and once the safety of the vaccine is established in older children, testing will move to younger age groups. Much like the trials performed in adults, these will take months and the data will have to be analyzed.

Can I stop wearing a mask when vaccine distribution starts?

No. You should not stop wearing a mask, especially since coronavirus infection levels are currently rising all over the world. Even when the vaccine becomes widely available, many experts say that safety measures like social distancing, handwashing and mask wearing will still be necessary until the threat has subsided.

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