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Is it safe? Here are your top COVID-19 vaccine questions - answered

The FDA issued an emergency use authorization for Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine Friday night.

The COVID-19 vaccine has been a big talker all week long - and for good reason. 

On Friday, the FDA issued an emergency use authorization for Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine. It's welcome news to many - as the number of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations reach record highs.

Healthcare professionals in our area expect to start administering the first dose of the vaccine next week. WFMY News 2 received several questions from viewers about the vaccine. Here are the findings:

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen insists the answer is yes. Based on preliminary trials, she said some people may experience minor side effects after getting a dose - such as muscle aches and fatigue.

"Although the vaccines were developed quickly, they were built upon years of scientific work and developing vaccines for similar viruses," she said at a press conference earlier this week, "More than 70,000 participated in clinical trials for both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to see if they were safe and effective - and preliminary data shows that they are nearly 95% effective in preventing COVID-19 with minimal safety concerns.

"There is no COVID-19 virus in the actual vaccines themselves. The vaccine imitates the infection so that our body thinks a germ like the virus is attacking and this creates the antibody defense we need to fight off COVID-19."

You can learn more about the FDA's authorization of the vaccine, following a thorough evaluation, by clicking here.

Who's getting the vaccination first? When will I be able to get it?

First up in Phase 1a. are the healthcare workers and medical first responders, followed by long-term care residents and staff. In Phase 1b., people with two or more chronic conditions can get the vaccine. Click here for a complete breakdown from NCDHHS. 

Dr. John Sanders, Chief of Infectious Diseases at Wake Forest Baptist Health explained most of us should be eligible in about 6 months.

"By the end of spring, going into summer - anyone who wants the vaccine should be able to access it," he said.

How much will it cost?

The COVID-19 vaccine is free to everyone - even if you don't have health insurance. NCDHHS explained the federal government will be purchasing the vaccines.

More questions? Head on over to the FAQ on the Health and Human Services website.