Nursing & Healthcare News

Vaccines at Last

The first COVID-19 vaccines have arrived, but can they end the pandemic?

A nurse is giving a young adult a vaccination

Could there have been a more welcome 2020 holiday gift than the first COVID-19 vaccines? While their arrival is great news, there are still many unanswered questions about whether the vaccines can finally end the pandemic.

COVID-19 Vaccine Facts

Here’s what we know:

There’s more than one. The first COVID-19 vaccine to receive FDA emergency use authorization (EUA) was the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. A second, developed by ModernaTX, received an EUA on December 19.

More may be on the way. According to the World Health Organization, there are currently more than 200 other vaccine candidates in development around the world. You can learn more about the various clinical trials at

The vaccines work in similar ways. Both are mRNA vaccines, which use modified versions of the coronavirus’s membrane proteins to kick the body’s immune system into gear without risk of infection.

Both are over 94 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 in randomized clinical trials. The Pfizer vaccine trial involved 36,621 participants, the Moderna trial 28,207 participants.

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These vaccines will be available for free. Because the U.S. has preordered many doses of these vaccines, there will be no charge to recipients.

State officials agree the vaccines are safe for the public. The Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, which includes scientists from California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, has been independently reviewing the safety data the FDA uses to grant emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccines. will have information about places for the public to get vaccinated (once there’s enough available for general public distribution).

The Not-So-Good News:

Supplies are still limited. The first shipment of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for California was 327,000 doses, with just 126,750 doses earmarked for Southern California. Healthcare workers are supposed to be first in line to get them, but limited supplies mean prioritizing recipients by facility, role and even age.

Nursing Education

Each current vaccine requires two doses. The Pfizer vaccine requires a second dose after three weeks, the Moderna after a month. The CDC warns that multiple-dose vaccines “may not protect you until a week or two after your second shot.”

There may be some side effects. After vaccination, CDC encourages people to download a health checker app called “v-safe” to help health officials “rapidly detect any safety issues with COVID-19 vaccines.”

Not authorized for kids. The Pfizer vaccine’s EUA covers recipients 16 and older, but the Moderna authorization is only for adults.

Long-term effectiveness is unknown. While clinical trial data suggests both vaccines are effective in the short term, how long protection lasts remains a question mark.

Don’t put away your masks yet. For now, mask and social distancing requirements will remain in effect, even if you’ve been vaccinated.

Although state officials hope to make COVID-19 vaccination available “fairly to everyone in California who wants it,” it may be months before enough doses are available for widespread public vaccination.This could be further complicated if it turns out people who’ve already been vaccinated need periodic booster shots for continued protection (which isn’t yet clear).

So, while the arrival of these vaccines is an important step, it’s still too soon to start making plans for your big post-pandemic reunions. Masks and social distancing will probably remain the norm for at least a big chunk of 2021.

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