HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- New strides in COVID-19 vaccines are happening daily, but there are still a lot of questions about the vaccine. Eyewitness News Action 13 team got you answers.
The coronavirus crisis is far from over. On Tuesday, Texas hit a new COVID-19 daily record with 13,998 cases.
Who will get it first?
Once the first COVID-19 vaccines arrive in Texas, the state's healthcare and frontline workers and the most vulnerable populations will be immunized first.
That prioritization was announced Monday by the office of Gov. Greg Abbott, basing that decision on recommendations made by the Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel created by the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Those guiding principles serve as a foundation for the state's initial distribution of the coronavirus vaccines, which are expected to arrive as early as next month, Abbott's office said.
What's the vaccination distribution plan when the vaccine gets to Houston?
Dr. David Persse with the Houston Health Department said that plan is largely based on the federal government and the state of Texas. He said the first group will be healthcare workers and first responders.
"Then, a lot of it is going to be prescribed by the federal government and the state as to what group is next," he explained. "We're going to be trying to encourage people to go to where they usually get their vaccines, because it'll be going to doctors' offices and clinics and hospitals. We'll be filling whatever gaps develop. If somebody can't get in, they don't have a primary healthcare physician, whatever problems come up, we're going to come up with a contingency plan to get them vaccinated."
What will the vaccine mean for an eventual return to normal?
"It's going to be a while, I think, before we reach that point," said Dr. Peter Hotez, professor and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and the co-director of the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development. "Remember, this is going to be an evolving situation, with each passing month, more people getting vaccinated ... life is going to get better and better, so don't look for an "on" or "off" switch."
When will we be able to stop wearing masks?
"It may be a while, because, first of all, it's going to take a while to get up to a significant percentage of the population being vaccinated," said Hotez.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe? What are the long-term side-effects and what are the risks that come with getting the vaccine?
"These vaccines have been tested in large clinical trials, [30,000 to 60,000] person trials," said Hotez. "One of the reasons you do those large studies ... if there's going to be a safety flare or signal, hopefully you'll see it with those [30,000 to 60,000] person trials. I can't promise you won't see any serious adverse events following vaccination, but given the fact that we haven't seen them in [30,000 to 60,000] person clinical trials so far means if they occur, they're pretty rare."
Watch experts answer these questions and more during the Action 13 Countdown to the Vaccine special. You can watch it now in the video player above or any of our streaming apps.