It has been a BIG day in vaccine news!


Today, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended the first COVID-19 vaccine!

The ACIP met to review and make recommendations on the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, which was given emergency use authorization by the FDA last night. You can read all the information presented at the ACIP meeting (see the link at the bottom). Here, we will sum up the big take-home points!

➡️ Who can get the vaccine?

The ACIP officially RECOMMENDS the vaccine for people 16 years old and up.

People who are breastfeeding, recently delivered a baby, planning to get pregnant, or pregnant can get the vaccine.

People with immune system problems (either from illness or medication) can also get the vaccine!

ACIP recommends that people with immune system disease, people taking immunosuppressants, and people who are currently pregnant talk with your clinician to help you make a decision that is right for you.

Already had COVID-19, or just think you might have? You can get the vaccine–and in fact, it is recommended that you do. Just don’t get the vaccine while you are still sick or during your isolation period.

For now, due to limited supply, the vaccine will only be available to people who work in healthcare and live in certain high-risk group settings, like nursing homes.

➡️ How effective and safe is the vaccine?

The clinical trial data showed that people who got two doses of the vaccine got symptomatic COVID-19 95% less often than people in the trial who did not get the vaccine (the control group, also called the placebo group). In other words, out of 100 people who would have gotten symptomatic COVID-19, all else being equal, 95 won’t because they got vaccinated. That’s really good.

There are expected side effects of the vaccine, and some of them are pretty uncomfortable. They include fever, headache, sore arm or muscles, and feeling tired. This is a normal response to the vaccine. Symptoms usually start about 1-2 days after the vaccine and then get better after a day or so for most people.

Serious adverse events are when big bad things happen, like being hospitalized or suffering permanent disability. There was no difference in the rates of these events between the placebo and vaccine groups. This suggests a good safety profile. Importantly, safety monitoring is ongoing and will continue as the vaccine is rolled out.

The committee recommends that people be monitored for 15 minutes after getting the vaccine in case of a rare but serious allergic reaction. The vaccine is also not recommended for people who have a history of anaphylactic reactions to vaccines (a very serious allergy).

2️⃣ How many shots do I have to get?

It’s two shots, 3 weeks apart. After the first shot, the efficacy of the vaccine was estimated at only about 52.4%. Get both shots to get the full effect! The two doses of Pfizer vaccine are given 3 weeks apart.

We may soon have two similar vaccines approved. In that case, you should get both shots of the SAME vaccine. If you accidentally get two different ones, don’t worry. You don’t have to start the vaccine all over.

This vaccine is not given with other vaccines. Wait 2 weeks before or after any other vaccine you might get, like the flu shot.

The Chair of the Committee, Dr. Jose Romero, ended the meeting today by saying that this marks the beginning of the end of the pandemic. This recommendation is fantastic news and we are grateful to all the scientists, healthcare workers, study volunteers, public health experts, epidemiologists, logistical planners, and EVERYONE who worked to make the vaccine a reality. The first doses will start to roll out on Monday! 👏

ACIP meeting slides

We will be posting lots more on this topic, so if you have specific vaccine questions, put them in our question box at Dear Pandemic.

This post was a collaboration with Your local epidemiologist (our first!), and she’ll have lots of vaccine posts too so be sure to follow her!

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