COVID-19 Vaccine: Can You Choose?
Overview: According to the U.S. Centers For Disease Control (CDC), as of Dec. 28, over 2 million Americans have received the first dose of either the Phizer BioNTech (BNT162b2) or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. As of Dec. 14, 11 million combined doses of each have been distributed.1 Currently, these are the only COVID-19 vaccines with authorization for use in the US. They each require two shots roughly one month apart.
As of Dec. 30, there have been 341,845 COVID-19 deaths and 19.7 million cases in the U.S., according to the Johns Hopkins University & Medical Center Coronavirus Research Center. The US census estimated that as of July 2019, the population of adults 18 and over in the US was 255,200,373.2
Four other vaccines supported by U.S Operation Warp Speed are sprinting toward U.S. emergency use (EU) approval. Following are details about them and estimated timelines:
- February 2021 for Janssen's vaccine known as JNJ-78436735 or Ad26.COV2.S. Janssen is a Johnson & Johnson company. The vaccine would require one dose.
- Possibly spring 2021 for a vaccine by University of Oxford and AstraZeneca. The vaccine is named ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 or AZD1222. It received approval in the UK on Dec. 30. It requires two doses four to 12 weeks apart.
- Mid-to late-2021 for a vaccine by Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). It requires two doses but the interval has not been finalized.
- NVX-CoV2373 by Novavax announced adult enrollment for Phase 3 trials on Dec. 28. A further timeline has not been released. Testing is with two doses 21 days apart.
Can I choose which vaccine I get?
It's hard to say how many people will be able to pick which vaccine they get. If you are among the first groups in line, whether or not you have a choice will depend on where you fit in the distribution phases. Your age, job, medical condition and where you live will all factor in. To date, some groups who have been prioritized have been given the option.
The general population may have access in the spring, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, National Institutes of Health (NIH) director. Fauci said that the U.S. could return to some degree of normalcy by the fall if 75%-85% of the US population get the vaccine.3 He didn't mention choices on vaccines.
It's unknown how many people will be able to pick which vaccine they get. Your age, job, medical condition and where you live are factors.
To help you get a handle on the situation, here are some FAQs.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) makes recommendations on the administration of all vaccines in the US. The final decision, however, rests with the federal, state and local jurisdictions which participate in the supply chain. On Dec. 1, the ACIP recommended prioritization for phase 1a of the vaccine administration and on Dec. 20 issued guidelines for Phase 1b and Phase 1c.4
- Phase 1a - Health care personnel and long-term care facility residents.
- Phase 1b - Persons aged ≥75 years and non–health care frontline essential workers
- Phase 1c - Persons aged 65–74 years, persons aged 16–64 years with high-risk medical conditions, and essential workers not included in Phase 1b.
Related: COVID-19 Vaccines Explained
How can I find out when I can get vaccinated?
Contact your state Department of Health (DOH) for information. Links to all state DOH websites can be found at the CDC State & Territorial Health Department Websites Directory.
Do I have to pay for the vaccine?
You will not have to pay for the vaccine but you may have to pay to have a medical professional give you the "jab" (that's what the Brits like to call a shot). If you have health insurance, your provider and insurance company will determine if you have an out-of-pocket cost and how much. If you are uninsured, it is free. Cost is covered by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund.5
Do I need a COVID-19 test before getting the vaccine?
No, according to the CDC.5
I already had COVID-19. Do I need to get vaccinated?
It is up to you. There have been only a few reported cases of COVID-19 reinfection. However, if you have an active infection, the CDC recommends waiting until your illness has cleared and you have met the quarantine guidelines. Further, reinfection within 90 days is rare, so the CDC states that you may wait 90 days to get the vaccine. You also should not be required to take an antibody test before receiving the vaccine.5
Do I need proof of COVID-19 vaccination?
It remains to be seen how vaccination for COVID-19 will be used in the U.S. and worldwide. Some countries are requiring proof before travel. After you receive a COVID-19 vaccine in the US, you will receive a piece of paper certifying and dating your dose(s).
Can children get the vaccine?
Yes, but ages are restricted. Phizer/BioNTech requested and received approval for BNT162b2 in ages 16 and over, although the company tested in children 12 and older. The FDA concluded that BNT162b2 is safe in children 12 and older. Moderna’s is OK'd for people 18 and older, though the company is currently testing the vaccine in 12-17-year-olds.
How many doses are states getting? How is that decided?
The vaccine distribution from the federal government is said to be following the guidelines developed by ACIP, so it is essentially based on key demographics like age and occupation, then individual medical risks are considered.
For additional information, you may want to check out The New York Times interactive map. The news agency said they surveyed all 50 state health departments—plus territorial governments and other agencies that may receive vaccines to ask how many doses they expect before the end of 2020.
Want to know how the vaccines work and what to expect? Read COVID-19 Vaccines Explained.
1. COVID-19 Cases, Deaths, and Trends in the US | CDC COVID Data Tracker. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#vaccinations. Published 2020. Accessed December 30, 2020.
2. Bureau U. National Population by Characteristics: 2010-2019. The United States Census Bureau. https://www.census.gov/data/tables/time-series/demo/popest/2010s-national-detail.html. Published 2020. Accessed December 30, 2020.
3. Higgens-Dunn, N., Lovelace Jr., B. Dr. Fauci says U.S. could return to normal by mid-fall if most people get Covid vaccine. Published Dec. 16, 2020. CNBC https://www.cnbc.com/2020/12/16/dr-fauci-says-us-could-return-to-normal-by-mid-fall-if-most-people-get-covid-vaccine.html.
4. COVID-19 and Your Health | How CDC Is Making COVID-19 Vaccine Recommendations | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations-process.html. Published 2020. Accessed December 30, 2020
5 COVID-19 and Your Health | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention | Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccination Published 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/faq.html# Published 2020. Accessed December 30, 2020
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