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When can we get back to normal? UF Health experts answer questions about vaccine supplies, herd immunity and more

UF Health Jacksonville held a teleconference public meeting for council members sharing the latest information on vaccine supply and COVID-19 research.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — UF Health Jacksonville held a conference call Thursday with Dr. Leon Haley, City of Jacksonville council members and other community leaders. 

Haley, Vice President for Health Affairs at the University of Florida, answered questions about when life might get back to normal and when the general public could get vaccinated.

UF Health Jacksonville reports they currently have 61 COVID-19 patients at the hospital. There have been about 85,000 coronavirus cases in Duval County since the beginning of the pandemic and nearly 1,000 deaths in the county. 

UF Health Jax says they've had patients from newborns to 106 years old.

Here are some of your questions answered. Click here for a link to the full conference call.

If I have the vaccine, can I go back to normal?

Not yet. Haley says there are studies currently underway to see if people who are vaccinated can carry and transmit the virus. No data has been published yet due to the lack of people vaccinated so continue to social distance, wear a mask and wash your hands. 

When will the general public be able to get the vaccine? 

There is not an exact timeline, but Haley believes we should be seeing more vaccines being distributed in six weeks. He says Johnson & Johnson has plenty of vaccines available to distribute if they get approval. If that happens, Haley says they should be able to vaccinate more people in different age groups.

As for those under 65 years old with underlying health conditions, vaccines could be coming soon. A small portion of this group was vaccinated when Gov. DeSantis announced 29,000 doses last week. Haley says they have been distributed and hopse more become available for that group.

Why should I care about the COVID-19 variants?

Haley says there have always been variants of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, but the new variants are significant enough that we are being made more aware of them. He says Moderna and Pfizer are looking into if they need a booster shot to help fight off variants.

UF Health Jacksonville supports the new CDC recommendations of double masking, especially when traveling. 

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When can we get back to normal?

Haley says scientists want 70 to 80 percent of the population vaccinated to give us enough protection to allow us to go back to "normal". This would be herd immunity. 

Seventy percent of the US population is about 230 million people. Currently, about 27 million Americans have been vaccinated as of February 3.

Haley says COVID-19 is not going to disappear. It's likely we will need another vaccine in the fall like we do with the flu.

Are side effects normal with the vaccine?

Yes. Haley says side effects with both vaccines range from muscle soreness at injection site, muscle aches, fever/chills, headaches and malaise. No deaths have been related to side effects. 

He says data is showing people experience more side effects after the second dose, but they only last for short time. 

Nationally, Haley says they're seeing more side effects with the Moderna vaccine. He also says it appears that people who have had the coronavirus in the past experience more side effects.

Side effects are a sign of a strong immune response and can be considered a good thing.

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