What’s Going on with the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Back in December, both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna had their vaccines approved for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But since the approval for these vaccines, there has been so much confusion circling how they work and how they will be distributed. And now that President Joe Biden has taken office, what’s going to change?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of Jan. 20, around 16.5 million doses of the vaccine had been given. This is 3.5 million short of former President Donald Trump’s administration’s goal of 20 million shots by the end of 2020 through Operation Warp Speed. Since Biden has taken office, he has decided to end OWS and is using a different plan to distribute the vaccine.

Biden made it very clear that when he was elected that in his first 100 days in office, he planned on getting 100 million vaccines administered. However, on Jan. 25, Biden said that he upped his goal to 150 million vaccinations in his first 100 days, saying that he believes that 1.5 million shots can be given per day.

On Feb. 2, the White House released a statement saying that Biden is expanding vaccine supply by increasing the “overall weekly vaccine supply to states, Tribes, and territories to 10.5 million doses nationwide” beginning the first week of February.

In the same statement, the Biden-Harris administration also said that it will begin to send a limited number of vaccines directly to 40,000 retail pharmacy locations, including Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, Publix and Costco.

Most of the vaccine distribution, however, is still in the state government’s hands. In Florida, the top of the list to get vaccinated are those who are 65 or older, health care personnel, long-term care residents and staff and those deemed extremely vulnerable to COVID-19.

According to the CDC, as of Feb. 2, Florida ranks 42 among state vaccination rates, with around 3.4 million doses being distributed to the state and around 2 million doses being administered, putting the state at 59% for distributed vaccines that have been administered.

Governor Ron DeSantis announced on Jan. 26 that the state will be partnering with Publix for vaccine distribution, sending most of its vaccines to Publixes around the state.

As for the University of Florida, only UF Health faculty and staff, UF Health patients who are 65 or older and UF faculty and staff who are 65 or older are eligible for the vaccine. President Kent Fuchs is hopeful, however, that everyone at UF will be vaccinated this semester.

“I am incredibly optimistic about the vaccine,” said Fuchs in an email to all of UF on Jan. 11. “I look forward to celebrating this semester when every member of our UF community has been vaccinated.”

In the same email, he said that over 16,800 employees had received their first dose of the vaccine.

Sophomore Tanya Moreira, 21, has already received both of her doses, getting her first on Jan. 10 and her second on Jan. 28.

“I got the vaccine because I work at Shands as a patient care assistant, so I’m exposed to patients all the time,” Moreira said. “I did it to protect myself and them as well. I also wanted to contribute to ending this pandemic.”

Moreira, who is a health science major, got the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and said that she experienced some of the side effects.

“My first dose I felt like I got hit with a baseball bat on my arm,” she said, “but that’s normal, with most shots you feel sore at the site of the injection. I had a little bit of a body ache about 12 hours after my vaccine, but other than that I felt fine.”

She explained that her second dose, however, she felt more of the side effects more intensely.

“It was the same thing, my arm was pretty sore, but then I started feeling bad toward the nighttime. I think I had a fever because I woke up in the middle of the night and I was sweating really bad. Other than that, it was just body aches and feeling tired.”

She said that she was told that it was very important to drink lots of water and stay hydrated after getting the vaccine and that she thinks that contributed to why she wasn’t hit too hard by the side effects and why she felt fine the next day.

Junior Trinity Irwin, 19, is also a PCA at UF Health Shands, but she has not gotten her vaccine yet.

“I haven’t gotten the COVID vaccine just because I’m a little weary since it just came out,” she said. “I fully believe in and endorse getting vaccines, but I’m still a little nervous. I’ll probably end up getting it soon, though.”

Moreira also said that she had mixed feelings before she got the vaccine.

“I was so nervous because it’s something so new,” she said, “but I was also so excited and relieved that the vaccine was finally here.”

She also has a message for anyone who feels uncertain about getting the vaccine.

“I was skeptical too,” she said, “but you just have to zone out from all of the false information that gets put out. Do your research; mRNA vaccines have been researched for a long time and there’s so much information out about them. The COVID vaccine has had so much time, research and funding and so much has been put into it to make sure that it’s an effective way to prevent COVID from spreading.” 

For those not currently eligible to receive their vaccine, go to myvaccine.fl.gov to sign up to get email updates about vaccinations and when more people will be authorized.