How does eligibility vary depending on the state and why? Although the CDC issued recommendations last month as to which group states should be vaccinated first, even though the vaccine supply is still relatively low, the priorities are not binding and each state has its own groupings. Neither can the federal government demand that states change the previously announced prioritization plans, although renewed pressure from Mr Azar and the growing impatience of the public as deaths from the virus keep reaching new highs could lead many to do so . When drawing up priority groups, state officials considered criteria such as the likelihood that they would be most likely to die if they contract Covid-19 – including people of color, as well as the elderly and the sick – and which professions are critical to fully reopening the economy. Each state’s unique demographics also played a role.
I am qualifying now. How do I sign up?
This very much depends on which state or county you live in. Some local health departments have set up portals where people can make appointments. others hold mass vaccination events and vaccinate people on a first-come, first-served basis. In general, medical practices and pharmacies have asked patients and customers not to call them yet to schedule a vaccination appointment and instead wait to be contacted. Most pharmacies don’t offer the vaccine yet, but CVS, Walgreens, and a number of other pharmacy chains, including some in grocery stores and large stores, will soon do so through a partnership with the federal government.
What happens to key workers whose job requires them to face other people when the federal government says older people and people with underlying medical conditions should be vaccinated next? Are you entitled now?
In some states, yes. Health workers in all states were the first to be offered the vaccine. And prior to Mr Azar’s instruction this week, several states had opened vaccinations against certain categories of frontline workers such as police officers, firefighters, teachers, child care workers and public transport workers. But other states that had planned to offer the vaccine to some key workers in the coming weeks may now be given a new priority based on Mr Azar’s new guidance. Nothing prevents states from opening vaccination to a new priority group before they have reached all members of a previous group, but care is an important consideration.
How many doses of vaccine does the US have access to? So far, Pfizer and Moderna, the only two companies approved for emergency vaccines here, have pledged to deliver 400 million doses over the next seven months. Both vaccines require two doses, so 200 million out of around 260 million people who can be vaccinated at this point will be enough. Children under 16 are not yet eligible for Pfizer’s vaccine, and children under 18 cannot yet take Moderna. Johnson & Johnson, which has a single-dose vaccine candidate in late-stage clinical trials, has signed a contract with the federal government to provide 12 million doses by the end of February and a total of 100 million doses by the end of June. However, the company has fallen behind on its production schedule.