About COVID-19 Vaccine
In the United States, there is not yet an authorized or approved vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The federal government, through Operation Warp Speed, has been working since the pandemic started to make one or more COVID-19 vaccines available as soon as possible.
Plans for vaccine distribution are well underway and are being tailored at local levels to include specific community needs. Details including when a vaccine is released and how much will be available, are all factors being considered in the distribution plans.
Frequently Asked Questions
Planning for a Vaccine
The goal for Operation Warp Speed is to deliver safe vaccines that work, with the first supply becoming available before the end of 2020. When a vaccine is authorized or approved in the United States, there may not be enough doses available for all adults. Supplies will increase over time, and all adults should be able to get vaccinated later in 2021. However, a COVID-19 vaccine may not be available for young children until more studies are completed.
The federal government will oversee a centralized system to order, distribute, and track COVID-19 vaccines. All vaccines will be ordered through CDC. Vaccine providers will receive vaccines from CDC’s centralized distributor or directly from a vaccine manufacturer.
Many COVID-19 vaccine candidates are in development, and clinical trials are being conducted at the same time with large-scale manufacturing. With first doses expected before the end of 2020, planning and preparing for a COVID-19 vaccination program is very important.
Planning efforts have focused on every step and detail of the process, including:
- Establishing and testing logistics plans with manufacturers and commercial partners that are part of CDC’s centralized COVID-19 vaccine delivery system
- Coordinating the first distribution of vaccines and needed supplies from centralized locations
- Ordering processes for additional doses of the vaccine after the first supply has been shipped
- Receiving, storing, and handling vaccines properly at very specific temperatures
- Deciding who should receive a vaccine first, based on national recommendations, if there are not enough doses of the vaccine for everyone
- Giving the vaccines in a safe way during an ongoing pandemic
- Reporting on vaccine inventory, administration, and safety using a variety of new and enhanced data systems
- Expanding safety surveillance through new systems and additional information sources, as well as scaling up existing safety monitoring systems
- Developing plans to assess vaccine effectiveness, which means how well the vaccines protect against COVID-19 under real-life conditions
- Making sure timely, credible, and clear communication is provided to the public and stakeholders around all aspects of the vaccination program
This situation continues to change, and planning will progress as more information about any authorized or approved vaccines becomes available. A safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine is a critical component of the U.S. strategy to reduce COVID-19-related illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths and to help society function as it did before COVID-19. The goal of the U.S. government is to have enough COVID-19 vaccine doses for all people in the United States who choose to be vaccinated.
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. It is understandable how concerning this would be for people, especially for those who are at increased risk for serious illness from this virus and for their loved ones.
That is why, early in the response, the federal government began investing in select vaccine manufacturers to help them increase their ability to quickly make and distribute a large amount of COVID-19 vaccine. This will allow the United States to start with as much vaccine as possible and continually increase the supply in the weeks and months to follow. The goal is for everyone to be able to easily get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as large quantities are available. Several thousand vaccination providers will be available, including doctors’ offices, retail pharmacies, hospitals, and federally qualified health centers.
Has there been a coronavirus vaccine developed before? What is known about it and can it be helpful today in working toward a COVID-19 vaccine?
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) are two diseases caused by coronaviruses that are closely related to the virus that causes COVID-19. Researchers began working on developing vaccines for these diseases after they were discovered in 2003 and 2012, respectively. None of the SARS vaccines ever made it past the first stages of development and testing, in large part due to lack of interest because the virus disappeared. One MERS vaccine (MVA-MERS-S) successfully completed a phase 1 clinical trial in 2019. Lessons learned from this earlier vaccine research have been used to inform strategies for developing a COVID-19 vaccine.
Why is it taking so long to develop a COVID-19 vaccine? It only took a few months for the H1N1 influenza (flu) vaccine to be developed.
When a new flu strain is identified, like H1N1 in 2009, vaccine manufacturers can use the same processes that are used to make the annual seasonal flu vaccine, saving valuable time. Unlike flu, coronaviruses do not yet have licensed vaccines or processes to build on. In addition, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is a new virus, so entirely new vaccines must be developed and tested to ensure they work and are safe. There are many steps in the vaccine testing and approval process. Multiple agencies and groups in the United States are working together to make sure that a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine is available as quickly as possible.
All but one of the COVID-19 vaccines currently in Phase 3 clinical trials in the United States need two shots to be effective. The other COVID-19 vaccine uses one shot.
Vaccine doses purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars will be given to the American people at no cost. However, vaccination providers will be able to charge an administration fee for giving the shot to someone. Vaccine providers can get this fee reimbursed by the patient’s public or private insurance company or, for uninsured patients, by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund.
At first, there may be a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine. Operation Warp Speed will work to get those first vaccine doses out once a vaccine is authorized or approved and recommended, rather than waiting until there is enough vaccine for everyone. However, it is important that the initial supplies of vaccine are given to people in a fair, ethical, and transparent way. Learn how CDC is making COVID-19 vaccine recommendations, including recommendations if there is a limited supply, based on input from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).
If I have already had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine when it’s available?
There is not enough information currently available to say if or for how long after infection someone is protected from getting COVID-19 again; this is called natural immunity. Early evidence suggests natural immunity from COVID-19 may not last very long, but more studies are needed to better understand this. Until we have a vaccine available and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices makes recommendations to CDC on how to best use COVID-19 vaccines, CDC cannot comment on whether people who had COVID-19 should get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Why would a vaccine be needed if we can do other things, like social distancing and wearing masks, to prevent the virus that causes COVID-19 from spreading?
Stopping a pandemic requires using all the tools available. Vaccines work with your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. Other steps, like covering your mouth and nose with a mask and staying at least 6 feet away from others, help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others. Together, COVID-19 vaccination and following CDC’s recommendations to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from COVID-19.
Do I need to wear a mask and avoid close contact with others if I have received 2 doses of the vaccine?
Yes. While experts learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions, it will be important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to us to help stop this pandemic, like covering your mouth and nose with a mask, washing hands often, and staying at least 6 feet away from others. Together, COVID-19 vaccination and following CDC’s recommendations for how to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from getting and spreading COVID-19. Experts need to understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide before deciding to change recommendations on steps everyone should take to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Other factors, including how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities, will also affect this decision.
The protection someone gains from having an infection (called natural immunity) varies depending on the disease, and it varies from person to person. Since this virus is new, we don’t know how long natural immunity might last. Some early evidence—based on some people— seems to suggest that natural immunity may not last very long.
Regarding vaccination, we won’t know how long immunity lasts until we have a vaccine and more data on how well it works.
Both natural immunity and vaccine-induced immunity are important aspects of COVID-19 that experts are trying to learn more about, and CDC will keep the public informed as new evidence becomes available.