One of the best ways to tackle the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is through immunization programs. At this point, several COVID-19 vaccines are available such as Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson / Janssen. The ongoing vaccination process may seem confusing, especially because most of us have never experienced this apocalyptic scenario before. To help you get informed, we are going to simplify the whole process in this post. Read on to see who is eligible for vaccination, how to apply, and other useful things you need to know.
Who is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine?
Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been authorized for ages 16 and up, while Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are approved for persons with ages 18 and up. At this point, over 150 million people (more than half the population) are eligible to receive a vaccine against COVID-19.
According to the CDC, the U.S. supply of vaccines is expected to be limited at first. For that reason,
they issued recommendations to federal, state, and local governments regarding the priorities for vaccinations. The vaccine rollout is recommended to develop in three phases:
- Phase 1a: healthcare personnel and residents of long-term care facilities to receive first doses of COVID-19 vaccines
- Phase 1b: frontline essential workers (police officers, firefighters, corrections officers, USPS workers, food and agricultural workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers, teachers, daycare workers). People aged 75 years and older are also included in phase 1b of vaccine rollout.
- Phase 1c: people aged 65-74 years (except for residents of long-term care facilities who received the vaccine in phase 1a), people aged 16-64 with an underlying medical condition, and other essential workers such as persons working in logistics and transportation, food service, information technology, and communications, media, public safety, law, and public health
It’s useful to keep in mind recommendations from the CDC are not binding. Each state has the right to determine priorities regarding vaccination. To check whether you’re eligible, you should visit the official public health website of your state for more specific vaccination eligibility requirements. In the “Useful COVID-19 vaccination resources” section, you can find the link with all state and territorial Health Department websites.
How to apply for the vaccine?
The application process for the vaccine depends on each state. For that reason, it’s useful to visit the link with health department websites, find your state, and see how to apply. The link is available further in the article.
Some state and local health departments have set up platforms where people can confirm the eligibility, schedule an appointment, and confirm the vaccine they will take. However, some health departments have arranged mass vaccinations relying on a first-come, first-served approach.
Can I choose which vaccine against COVID-19 I get?
Since several vaccines against COVID-19 are available, it’s impossible not to wonder if and how you can choose which one to get. However, it’s highly unlikely any of us have any say in the matter. You probably won’t be able to choose the vaccine. Why? Well, numerous factors are involved, including limited supplies, the vaccines used by the health department in your area, and the time of vaccination. Again, it’s useful to check out the health department website of your state of residence. In the end, the type of vaccine doesn’t really matter, and people are advised to get any vaccine their health departments offer since they have high effectiveness.
Basically, at this point, you can’t choose the vaccine. But, you may be able to do so once they become commercially available. At the moment, you can’t buy a vaccine against COVID-19 in pharmacies. But, CVS, Walgreens, and other chain pharmacies may start offering vaccines in partnership with the federal government.
What does “fully vaccinated” mean?
A person is considered “fully vaccinated” two weeks after receiving the second dose of vaccines such as Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna and two weeks after receiving a single-dose vaccine such as Johnson & Johnson / Janssen.
A common misconception is that a person is “fully vaccinated” as soon as they receive a vaccine, but that’s simply not true. You are not fully vaccinated immediately or if it has been less than two weeks since receiving a single-dose vaccine or the second dose of Pfizer and Moderna.
How to protect yourself and others when you’re fully vaccinated?
Disregarding all the rules and recommendations once you’re fully vaccinated is a huge mistake. Keep in mind we are still learning how the vaccines work. Once you are fully vaccinated, you can finally gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without having to wear a mask. You can also gather indoors with people from
other households without wearing a mask unless any of these men and women are in a high-risk group of developing severe symptoms of COVID-19.
In case you, as a fully vaccinated person, have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19, you don’t have to get tested unless you’re experiencing symptoms as well.
While all these are important changes, as a fully vaccinated person, you still need to be cautious in order to protect yourself and other people; you should still:
- Wear a mask in public
- Maintain social distancing (at least six feet apart)
- Avoid crowds
- Avoid poorly ventilated spaces
- Delay your domestic and international travels
Always keep in mind that many people are still not vaccinated. So you need to be particularly careful in order to protect them. Also, make sure to watch out for symptoms of COVID-19.
Useful COVID-19 vaccination resources
State & Territorial Health Department Websites, CDC – https://www.cdc.gov/publichealthgateway/healthdirectories/healthdepartments.html
COVID-19 Vaccine, CDC – https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/index.html
COVID-19 Vaccines, U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources – https://www.hhs.gov/coronavirus/covid-19-vaccines/index.html
Most people are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, but each state determines their ultimate eligibility and priority requirements. Make sure to check the official website of the public health department of your state to learn more about the process. Remember, getting a vaccine doesn’t mean you are fully vaccinated immediately, and you should still be cautious to protect yourself and others.