Coronavirus vaccine questions answered: Dosage, distribution, and more

The announcement of a second, potentially highly-effective COVID-19 vaccine is positive news for more than one reason.

Drug company Moderna said its coronavirus vaccine has likely effectiveness of more than 90%. Just one week earlier, Pfizer said its vaccine, which is similar to Moderna's, is around 90% effective, as well.

Dr. Michael Teng, a virologist at the University of South Florida, says the emergence of two similar vaccines means it is likely immunization is achievable. It also means there will be more of it to go around.

"We need multiple companies with multiple production facilities to be capable of making enough doses," Teng said.

Like Pfizer, Moderna says it will be able to produce 20 million doses by the end of the year and hopes to have between 500 million and 1 billion doses by the end of next year.

If Moderna can get approval from the FDA, distribution can begin, but states will be left to their own devices to distribute the vaccines.

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Florida provided an outline of its distribution plan to the CDC about a month ago, which includes a priority for healthcare workers, first responders, those with health factors that could make them susceptible to severe illness, and people in long-term care facilities.

Then, the distribution would continue through the healthcare system and pharmacies. The general public would be last in line.


COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to mount in Florida

With thousands of additional COVID-19 cases being reported every day, the number of people hospitalized with the disease continues to mount.

With that comes a public awareness campaign. The vaccines require two doses. About four weeks after the first shot, a person has to return to their healthcare provider for a second, or booster, shot.

Dr. Teng says paperwork will be key.

"They can track when you got your vaccine, and then they can follow up to make sure you come back four weeks later to get your second dose," he said. "It requires a coordinated plan. It requires leadership on a national level."

He expects there won't be enough doses to start vaccinating the general population for at least another six months.


COVID-19 vaccine would be latest in long list of lifesavers

There have been numerous other inoculations that have saved countless lives.  Now in 2020, we sit on the verge of at least two coronavirus vaccines that have the potential of helping to return life back to normal.

Until then, the best prevention is, "...continue what we are doing. We have to do the physical distancing, we have to keep our masks on," Teng said.

Teng expects Moderna and Pfizer to continue collecting data, especially on the emergence and seriousness of side effects.

The companies also have yet to determine how long the vaccines will last. The only way to test for that is time.