New York has received its first shipment of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines, but there are still many questions swirling about how the vaccination process will work. 

This initial shipment of 170,000 vaccine doses is currently being distributed to high-risk health care workers, with nursing home staff and residents set to start recieving the vaccine on December 21. State officials said it will take a few weeks to inncoluate all those connected to nursing homes.

This Pfizer vaccine requires two doses for each person, so in addition to this first shipment, the state will receive another 170,000 doses within 21 days to meet the two-dose requirement.

New York has signed up to be part of a federal program that will allow for CVS and Walgreens to "to provide and administer" the vaccines with "no out-of-pocket costs" for the recipients. Trained staff from CVS and Walgreens will administer the shots at nursing homes and hospitals.

New York will also be recieving 346,000 doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine most likely the week of December 21st.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are being distributed to 292 sites statewide.

After this initial group receives the COVID-19 vaccine, the state will aim to vaccinate other at risk residents such as those in adult-care facilities.

Next, front-line workers like police officers, teachers, and transit workers will receive the vaccine.

Following this group, New Yorkers above the age of 65 as well as people with pre-existing conditions will have the opportunity to be vaccinated.

Children will most likely not be vaccinated until later in 2021, since clinical trials just recently started for that age group.

Still have questions? Check out the Q&A below.

When will a vaccine be available for me?

If you are not a front-line worker, you will most likely not be able to receive a vaccine until February or early March at the earliest. Most health experts say that it will take until at least June or July to get everyone vaccinated.

The goal is to reach at least 75% of the population with the vaccine in order to create herd immunity against the virus. 

Here's a breakdown of the expected distribution plan.

What vaccines will New York distribute?

New York has received the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine first. The Moderna vaccine has been approved by the FDA and New York expects its first shipment in a few days. There are multiple other COVID-19 vaccines though still in Phase 3 of clinical trials that could be approved in the coming weeks and months.

Where will I be able to get a vaccine?

This still remains unclear. Governor Andrew Cuomo says that the state will be developing a plan that will be announced at the end of January that will identify vaccination sites in each community. New York’s draft vaccination plan has hospitals, pharmacies and even schools as potential vaccination sites.

Is it safe?

The FDA is in charge of the approval process. The guidelines they put forth for the COVID-19 vaccines under development and in trials must follow the same rigorous safety rules as any other new vaccine.

New York, along with a handful of states, has also set-up an expert panel to independently review any COVID-19 vaccine before it is distributed.

How does it work?

The vaccines work by tricking the body into creating an immune response for a virus that is not present in the body.

New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said the vaccine does not affect or interact with a person’s DNA but teaches the body how to build immunity against the novel coronavirus.

He said it is moderately effective after the first 10 to 14 days of vaccination, but that the second dose is critically important, as it is what is needed to achieve 95% effectiveness in fighting the virus.

Are there any side effects of the vaccine?

No serious safety concerns have been found for either vaccine. Each vaccine has shown only minor side effects, such as injection site pain, fatigue and headache.

However, after the United Kingdom’s rollout of the vaccine this week, health authorities there are advising people with a "significant history of allergic reactions" to not be given the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine. It comes after two health care workers, who both carried an adrenaline auto injector and had a history of allergic reactions, “responded adversely” to their shot.

What will it cost? 

The COVID-19 vaccine will be free for all Americans, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

But you may still receive a bill. Providers can legally charge an administration fee for giving the shot to patients, according to the CDC. You can file a claim with your insurance company, however, since they're required to cover approved preventive care under the Affordable Care Act

New York state has ordered all insurance companies cover all vaccine-associated costs.

Will the vaccine be mandatory?

No. There are no plans or discussions at this time to make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory by either state or local leaders. While there is a bill that was introduced by a state Assembly member that looks at potentially making the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory, there is no support for this bill by either Democrats or Republicans.