For many of us, it’s the ‘it’ question of the year: When can I get the COVID vaccine?
The answer to that question is a moving target. Here’s what you need to know about vaccine distribution and how to stay on top of what’s going on in your hood.
The rollout: Days after the FDA gave emergency use (EUA) approval to the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine on Dec. 11, supplies began shipping. A week later, a second vaccine, from Moderna, got his EUA. But there have been ups and downs, with failures and fewer doses than expected and given.
Find your group: The CDC has taken the advice of its expert panel, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), and has recommended that the vaccine be given to different groups in stages. So far here̵
- 1a – Health workers and residents of long-term care facilities
- 1b – Frontline workers (fire brigade, police) and people aged 75 and over
- 1c – People aged 65-74, people aged 16-64 with underlying medical conditions, other essential workers.
Who’s in front of me? The New York Times developed a nice tool to estimate your place in the queue and to ‘see’ where you stand. Use the tool to enter your age, state and other details and you can see who is watching your party.
State by state plans: Every state had to submit its vaccination plans to the CDC. Those are long documents. For current information that is regularly updated, visit the COVID vaccine page for your state. Google, say, California and COVID vaccine, and you get this page. Google Arkansas and COVID Vaccine and you will get this page. You can check your eligibility with a screener like this one.
Can’t we speed things up? That was the thought of some who suggested giving less than a full dose of the vaccine to stretch supplies when we were woefully short of meeting planned vaccination milestones.
No way, says the FDA, which shot that idea down ASAP. The available vaccines have received emergency use approval from the FDA, and that authorization was based on results from full-dose clinical studies and the dose regimen tested. One more caveat: Do not combine the two-dose vaccines. The second dose must be the same vaccine as the first.
How else can I stay informed and not miss my chance?
There are a number of steps you can take, says Aaron Glatt, MD, infectious disease physician and chair of the division of medicine, Mt. Sinai South Nassau, Oceanside, NY. Amongst them:
- Tune in to local media for availability reports.
- Ask your doctor or your health plan.
- Call your senior center for information.
- Call your local health department or check the web page.
- Call the offices of local politicians.
- Keep an eye on this link; it will update on the COVID vaccine as more supplies become available.
What if I get a special offer to cross the line? Medicare, the FBI and other agencies are already warning people that the COVID scammers are on the way. Don’t fall for the “pay me a small fee, we’ll get you in.” And by the way, the vaccine is free for patients.
What else do you need to know if the distribution continues? Shortly after the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine was given, reports of some serious allergic reactions caused understandable anxiety. On Jan. 6, the CDC released a report, noting that 21 cases of a serious allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis occurred after nearly 2 million doses had been given. The risk can be managed by post-injection observation, with epinephrine on hand, and other measures, the CDC says.