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The first COVID-19 vaccine is making its way across the United States, including in Florida, and health care workers have begun receiving doses. Volusia County residents may be wondering: When will I receive the COVID-19 vaccine?

It all depends on when enough of the vaccine is available.

Volusia County Department of Health Communications Manager Holly Smith told The Beacon, “Much of the vaccination plans for Volusia County are dependent on vaccine supply. Updates on the timeline for the general public will be provided as those plans become available.”

After receiving a green light for emergency use from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine began distribution across the U.S. on Dec. 14.

The first patient in Florida to be vaccinated was in Tampa, and AdventHealth in Central Florida received its first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine Dec. 15. The first shipment will be used to inoculate frontline medical workers.

In a Dec. 10 press release, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said about 180,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine would be included in the first shipment to Florida.

Of those 180,000 doses, 97,500 will be delivered to hospitals for vaccination of “high-contact and high-exposure health care personnel,” Desantis said in the press release.

Another 60,450 will be delivered to pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens for distribution into long-term care facilities.

Lastly, 21,450 will be delivered to the Florida Department of Health for additional targeted distribution by “strike teams from Health, the Florida Division of Emergency Management, and the Florida National Guard,” according to DeSantis.

When will I get it?

The Florida Department of Health breaks down the plan to distribute the vaccine in a schedule released Oct. 16. The distribution will be done in phases.

Phase 1 has already started and will prioritize health care workers and long-term care facilities. Once those people are inoculated, first responders and essential workers will be prioritized.

The second and third phases will occur as more of the vaccine becomes available for distribution. People over the age of 65 and people with pre-existing conditions that place them at higher risk of COVID-19 complications will receive the top priority in Phase 2, as will first responders who did not receive the vaccine in Phase 1.

At these stages, the plan also indicates that county health departments could set up public vaccination sites, but there is no information yet about when that could begin in Volusia County.

It will not be until Phase 3 that the general public will receive the vaccine. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Supplies will increase over time, and all adults should be able to get vaccinated later in 2021.”

As of Tuesday, Dec. 15, the Pfizer vaccine is the only available vaccine, but the FDA will meet Thursday, Dec. 17, to discuss emergency authorization of a second vaccine produced by pharmaceutical company Moderna. A second emergency authorization will bolster the available supply.

Rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine will be gradual, and Smith from the Volusia Department of Health said information will be made public as it is available.

To read the full state Department of Health vaccination plan, click here.

Any questions? Like what will it cost?

According to the CDC, the COVID-19 vaccine is funded by taxpayers and will be “given to the American people at no cost.” Vaccine providers may charge a fee for giving the shot, but, according to the CDC’s COVID-19 frequently asked-questions page, this fee can be reimbursed by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund.

Are two shots required?

For the vaccine to reach its rate of 95-percent effectiveness in preventing COVID-19, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will both require follow-up shots after the first inoculation.

For the Pfizer vaccine, the FDA recommends receiving the follow-up shot three weeks after the first shot.

What about children?

The Pfizer vaccine has been approved by the FDA for emergency use in people ages 16 years and older. According to the CDC website, “a COVID-19 vaccine may not be available for young children until more studies are completed.”

Do things go back to normal after I receive my second shot?

Not quite. While the Pfizer vaccine is known to be effective in preventing COVID-19, the CDC says everyone will need to continue to wear masks, wash their hands often, and social-distance for some time after the vaccine has been administered.

“There is not enough information currently available to say if or when CDC will stop recommending that people wear masks and avoid close contact with others to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19,” according to the CDC website. “Experts need to understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide before making that decision.”

Do I need to take the vaccine if I have had COVID-19?

As of now, the CDC does not have a recommendation about whether people who have had COVID-19 should get a vaccine.

“Early evidence suggests natural immunity from COVID-19 may not last very long, but more studies are needed to better understand this,” the CDC website says.

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