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U.S. mulls Pfizer vaccine approval: Here’s what we know about their rollout plan

Click to play video: 'U.S. panel recommends emergency use of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine' U.S. panel recommends emergency use of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine
WATCH: U.S. panel recommends emergency use of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine – Dec 10, 2020

With coronavirus vaccines on the horizon, when and where will most Americans get their shots?

Many of the details are still being worked out, as U.S. regulators review the first vaccine candidates.

A federal panel of vaccine experts will meet today to consider Pfizer’s vaccine, and again on Dec. 17 for Moderna’s. The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, made up of independent vaccine experts, infectious disease specialists, industry representatives and a consumer representative, will pick apart Pfizer’s data for any red flags. They will debate whether the shot is safe and effective enough to be cleared for emergency use.

Then, they will vote. That vote could come as early as Thursday afternoon.

Read more: U.S. reports over 3,000 new coronavirus deaths for 1st time as vaccine approval looms

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If the advisory group gives a thumbs-up, the Food and Drug Administration could green-light the shots soon after, setting into motion the country’s largest-ever vaccination effort.

It will take many months to reach everyone, and expect bumps in the road.

Click to play video: 'U.S. faces challenges of COVID-19 vaccine distribution and distrust' U.S. faces challenges of COVID-19 vaccine distribution and distrust
U.S. faces challenges of COVID-19 vaccine distribution and distrust – Dec 9, 2020

But don’t get discouraged, said Dr. Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.

“We will work through those,” he said.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19 vaccine takes 2 shots, 21 days apart' COVID-19 vaccine takes 2 shots, 21 days apart
COVID-19 vaccine takes 2 shots, 21 days apart – Dec 9, 2020

WHEN CAN AMERICANS GET VACCINATED?

It depends on your risk of getting infected or getting seriously ill.

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Are you a health care worker? A resident of a nursing home or getting long-term care? Those folks should be first in line for the initial, limited supply, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention decided.

Read more: Biden introduces health team, calls for urgent action on pandemic

The first shots could be given within days if the FDA gives the go-ahead for emergency use. In the fastest scenario, if the FDA grants emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer vaccine, the government’s Operation Warp Speed has promised to start delivering the shots within 24 hours after that. The same thing could, potentially, happen next week with the Moderna vaccine.

States will ultimately decide where to send the shots.

Based on Pfizer’s and Moderna’s stockpiles, federal officials estimate 20 million people in the first priority group could be vaccinated by the end of the year. Both vaccines require two doses.

Click to play video: 'Health Canada approves use of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine' Health Canada approves use of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine
Health Canada approves use of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine – Dec 9, 2020

WHO’S NEXT IN LINE?

An expert panel that advises the CDC on vaccines will meet again to recommend the next group. Possibilities include anyone 65 and older, teachers, police, firefighters and workers in other essential fields, such as food production.

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More vaccines are in the pipeline, and officials have said they want to have shots widely available to everyone else before the middle of next year. Vaccine testing is just getting underway in children to determine if they can be given shots.

To find out when it is your turn, Americans will have to watch for notices from their state, as it will be in their hands to delegate who, where and when.

WHERE WILL SHOTS BE GIVEN?

Pharmacies, health clinics and your doctor’s office are the likely options. States are working on signing them up. Local health departments will also probably run mass vaccination clinics.

Once doses are widely available, people will be able to use an existing government website, vaccinefinder.org, to find COVID-19 shots. The website is already used to find vaccines for the flu and other diseases.

COVID-19 shots are likely to be limited for awhile, and which type people get will probably depend on what’s available.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: U.S. Department of Defense to receive initial COVID-19 vaccine doses ‘in the coming days’' Coronavirus: U.S. Department of Defense to receive initial COVID-19 vaccine doses ‘in the coming days’
Coronavirus: U.S. Department of Defense to receive initial COVID-19 vaccine doses ‘in the coming days’ – Dec 9, 2020

HOW MUCH WILL IT COST?

It should be free. The government is paying for the vaccine itself. And you shouldn’t be charged a copay or other fee to get it.

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The cost for giving the shot will be covered by private and government insurance, based on a set reimbursement fee. If you don’t have insurance, providers can tap a government fund to cover costs.

WHAT ABOUT THE SECOND SHOT?

It depends on the brand of vaccine. Pfizer’s is three weeks later, and Moderna’s is four weeks.

You’ll get a vaccination record card as a reminder to return for a second shot. A similar process was taken up by the U.K. this week, who was the first country in the world to dole out COVID-19 vaccines. The cards included the patients name, time and date of vaccine, and what type.

Read more: Trump signs ‘America First’ coronavirus vaccine order but vows to work with world

You might also get reminder texts, calls or letters in the mail, depending on the location. Shots will be recorded in state and local vaccine registries that already keep track of other vaccinations. COVID-19 vaccines can’t be mixed and matched, so if a second dose is needed, providers will be checking to make sure you get the right one.

Not all vaccines in development require two shots. Johnson & Johnson is testing a single-dose vaccine.

WHAT ABOUT SIDE EFFECTS?

Pfizer’s vaccine has been tested in tens of thousands of volunteers, and so far, the FDA has uncovered no serious side effects, including no allergic reactions of the type reported in the U.K.

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However, such studies can’t detect rare problems that might only affect a tiny slice of the general population.

Click to play video: 'U.K. advises people with serious allergies to avoid Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine' U.K. advises people with serious allergies to avoid Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine
U.K. advises people with serious allergies to avoid Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine – Dec 9, 2020

FDA reviewers noted four cases of Bell’s palsy that all occurred among people getting the vaccine. They concluded the cases were likely unrelated to the vaccine because they occurred at rates that would be expected without any medical intervention. But the agency did say cases of the nerve disorder should be tracked, given that other vaccines can cause the problem.

Health officials will be monitoring for side effects as more people get vaccinated, as well as for any potential longer-term issues.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, has noted that people might feel achy or feverish right after the shot, or some soreness in the arm. Other temporary side effects reported by study participants included fatigue, headache and chills.

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Read more: Canada monitoring Pfizer vaccine after U.K. allergic reactions

HOW DOES CANADA DIFFER?

Canada approved its first coronavirus vaccine — Pfizer’s — on Dec. 9.

Like the FDA, Health Canada has not uncovered any serious adverse reactions to the vaccine, but are advising people with previous allergic reactions of any of its listed ingredients to not take it.

The government expects a limited rollout to begin to priority groups “within days” and for vaccination of the general population slated to start in April.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is leading Canada’s vaccine distribution plans, said he expects Pfizer will ship the vaccines from Belgium on Dec. 11 and the doses could begin arriving on Monday or Tuesday.

He noted that the final details will become clearer once the shipping process gets underway.

Click to play video: 'A closer look at Canada’s rollout plan of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine' A closer look at Canada’s rollout plan of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine
A closer look at Canada’s rollout plan of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine – Dec 9, 2020

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that shipments will continue to arrive in early 2021 and beyond.

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He said distribution will be a “gradual process” that will flow through 14 identified sites across the country — one in each province and two int he four largest provinces. None of the early shipments are slated for the territories.

Like the U.S., the federal government will eventually pass the baton to the provinces.

“The last kilometre, in fact, is with the provincial and territorial jurisdictions and we will carry the baton as far as we can along that line,” Procurement Minister Anita Anand said previously.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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With files from Global News.

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