There are many COVID-19 vaccines in development, and some are now starting to be approved for use. When you will get a vaccine depends on several things, including: which country you live in, your age, any health conditions you have that mean you’re more likely to be very ill if you get the virus, and decisions made by your government.
The COVID-19 vaccine in the UK
The UK was the first country to approve the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and vaccinations started in early December, in 50 hospitals across the country.
Currently, the UK has enough doses of the vaccine to treat 400,000 people. It has ordered 40 million doses in total – which is enough to vaccinate 20 million people, because 2 doses are needed.
Who will get the vaccine first in the UK?
Who will be offered the vaccine first is based on advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, or JCVI. The JCVI’s suggested order of priority is:
- People who live in a care home for older adults, and their carers.
- People aged 80 and over, and frontline health and social care workers.
- People aged 75 and over.
- People aged 70 and over, and those with conditions that put them at higher risk of serious illness.
- People aged 65 and over.
- People aged 16 to 64 with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality.
- People aged 60 and over.
- People aged 55 and over.
- People aged 50 and over.
However, because the vaccine is only being given in hospitals at the moment, the first people to get it have been some people over 80, people who work in care homes and high-risk healthcare workers. The plan is to offer it more widely as soon as possible.
The Pfizer vaccine is given in 2 doses, at least 21 days apart, and gives protection from the virus 28 days after the first injection.
The UK has also ordered 100 million doses of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, and expects to have 4 million doses available by the end of 2020. This vaccine hasn’t been approved for use yet, but based on how quickly the Pfizer vaccine was approved after trials, it could be approved soon. The UK Government asked its Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to check it for approval on 27 November.
The COVID-19 vaccine in the US
The US is taking a slightly different approach to the UK when it comes to who will get the vaccine first. Its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends that healthcare workers and people who live in nursing homes should be the priority.
This Pfizer vaccine was approved for emergency use in the US on 11 December. Later this month, its Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will decide whether to authorise emergency use of a vaccine made by Moderna. However, The Washington Post has reported that experts believe vaccines won’t be widely available in the US until at least spring 2021.
The COVID-19 vaccine in India
India faces a big challenge when it comes to vaccination, with over 1 billion people spread across more than 3 million square kilometres.
But it does already have a good vaccination programme in place, which was developed to vaccinate babies and pregnant women against diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps and rubella. India has invested a lot of money and effort in developing and making vaccines – and in fact, the country now makes 60% of the world’s vaccines.
However, vaccinating will be a long process. Dr Gagandeep Kang, a microbiologist and the first Indian woman to be elected Fellow of the Royal Society of London, told the BBC: "We are underestimating the complexity of the exercise. It will take at least a couple of years to get half of Indians vaccinated."