We plan to update this post as more information is released on the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine.
Demand for coronavirus vaccines is high, but supply is still relatively low, leaving millions of Americans wondering when they can get their dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer products.
At the same time, logistical challenges and the holidays have led to a slow rollout and multiple states with doses in supply, not yet administering them to people. States and counties have increased their volume of doses administered in the past few weeks.
Still, after national leaders made promises of "warp speed," many are anxious to get their shots, or at least prepare. But officials across our region say the average citizen will likely have to wait a few months.
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"We know it’s difficult, I get many many emails a day, people really begging to get the vaccine, and I don’t blame them...," New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said in January. "Everybody will get vaccinated, we will have enough, it’s just a matter of time."
Guiding the three states in our region - Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware - is the approach of the federal CDC, which breaks vaccination down into subgroups depending on their risk of spreading the virus, of having serious illness or death. State and local governments are generally following the CDC's suggested rollout, with some tweaks (bumping teachers further ahead in line, for example).
Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware have all focused on their highest-risk groups first, with all three now moving to Phase 1B, which includes frontline workers and people above a certain age (this varies slightly by jurisdiction).
On Feb. 11, NBC News launched a website dedicated solely to when, how and where to obtain your coronavirus vaccination easier. Pulling together information from many sources, the site provides a comprehensive source for information on vaccination programs across the country.
PlanYourVaccine.com offers an interactive tool that lets you locate vaccination sites anywhere in the U.S. See if you're eligible to receive the vaccination based on your location, age, occupation and health risks; find the closest vaccination locations to you, including pharmacies and public health centers; and track statewide eligibility with vaccine distribution timelines for each state.
We've received several questions on our Facebook page and at our email address where we take questions, firstname.lastname@example.org. We're answering some of the most common questions for you, and will refine this further as officials release more information on the rollout.
What's my phase, and when is my turn?
Pennsylvania is in Phase 1A, but the state health department has expanded Phase 1A to include people over 65, and people 16-64 with serious medical conditions that make them more at risk.
In Delaware County, there is now a hotline and email available to residents who have location, availability and eligibility questions. Those are (484)276-2100 and Covid19Resources@co.delaware.pa.us.
Philadelphia handles its vaccine rollout separate from the state and is in its version of Phase 1B. The city's health department says 1B includes people over 75, people with chronic conditions that put them at risk, and frontline essential workers. (Read the city's vaccine plan here.)
Healthy people over 65 in Philadelphia are in Phase 1C. People over 65 in Philadelphia could only be eligible for the vaccine in Phase 1B if they have a specific condition, or are in the groups of essential workers who are next in line.
Philadelphia says specific groups of essential workers will be vaccinated first within Phase 1B. These are corrections officers, firefighters, police officers, service providers for vulnerable populations, and public transit workers. Philly teachers and other educators who work with children can get the vaccine starting Feb. 22 through their employer, at CHOP or six clinics in the district.
At the same time, hospitals and federal health clinics will be vaccinating people with these conditions: age above 75, cancer, chronic kidney disease, patients who have had an organ transplant, and diabetes.
The rest of Phase 1B in Philly will continue in a few weeks. Officials have asked for patience as they work with limited doses and an allocation that will stay flat through February.
Delaware is in Phase 1B. This includes everyone over age 65 and frontline essential workers including fire, police, EMS, corrections, educators and child care, U.S. Postal Service, food manufacturing workers, agriculture, transportation and grocery workers.
New Jersey is in Phase 1B. Health care workers and long-term care residents and staff were first in line in 1C. State residents over 65, and ages 16-64 with certain conditions, became eligible on Jan. 14 along with firefighters and sworn law enforcement.
The Garden State launched a new hotline for residents with vaccine-related questions. The number is (855)568-0545. There are 250 call-takers ready to answer location, availability and eligibility questions.
Here are the locations for getting the COVID-19 vaccine in Pennsylvania and New Jersey:
You can get a vaccine in Delaware at pharmacies with an appointment, state-run vaccination events (you must get on the waiting list and then wait to be contacted) or through your health care provider. All of this is spelled out more fully on the Delaware vaccine webpage.
As Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley pointed out in January, determinations of these phases "are based on how we can maximize the number of lives we save."
Across the country, health care workers have gotten vaccinated first because of the high risk that comes from treating infected patients, and potentially spreading the virus to others. Nursing home patients are also in the first phase - because elderly people are at higher risk of death or serious illness.
Initial plans for Phase 1B included people over 75 along with those frontline essential workers, making it a large group. Later, the Trump Administration ordered states and large cities to move up people over 65.
It will likely take longer to finish vaccinating Phase 1B compared to 1A, as there are many thousands more people. Few officials have offered a timeline for finishing this phase. According to Delaware's projected timeline for the vaccine distribution, phase 1B may not conclude until May.
However, officials across the region have said they are able to start a next phase before one phase is finished.
Right now, it's too early to give a specific date for when the general population will be vaccinated. Local officials are working with, in some cases, limited information from the federal government, limited doses, and difficulty projecting how many doses they'll have at future dates.
In Philly, Farley said recently that the city only knows how many doses it will receive through the end of February - and it will be a flat 20,000 weekly. More doses might be sent from the federal supply directly to Rite Aid and Shop Rite pharmacies, but the city doesn't know how many.
The size of the groups in your region varies by population. Check here to see your spot in line with our tool.
Are over-65 patients getting bumped up in line?
The CDC in January called for states to begin administering doses to people 65 and older, alongside essential workers.
In January, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced vaccine eligibility was opening up for people over 65 or between ages 16-64 with serious medical conditions. The state is vaccinating people from this group alongside first responders, essential workers and remaining unaffiliated health care workers.
"As we go to the next steps, we've got to be confident in the federal supply, and we increasingly are, particularly with the handover to the Biden administration," Murphy told NBC New York's Brian Thompson.
In Philadelphia, healthy people over 65 may have to wait longer since they are in Phase 1C, not 1B, according to the vaccine schedule the city updated last week. Farley said the city's Vaccine Advisory Committee believes more lives could be saved by prioritizing people over age 75, people ages 16-64 with high-risk medical conditions and people who work in congregate settings.
There is also a racial equity component, as Black residents make up a disproportionate share of many of the chronic patients in the city.
"And many people, African American folks, have diabetes or heart conditions that put them at greater risk," Farley said. "We want to make sure they have early access to vaccine, and somebody who is 65 and healthy maybe shouldn’t be in front of them in line. So it’s going to be a little bit complicated, that our system is going to be somewhat different from people in the suburbs, but we do think this is the right decision for Philadelphia."
Express interest in getting vaccinated
This section was updated Feb. 11.
Essential workers next in line for the vaccine will likely be contacted by their employers when doses are available. Hospitals will contact high-risk patients. Others who are eligible should contact their health care provider or wait for a response from filling out an interest form.
People who preregister will be notified when it's time for them to make an appointment. Appointments can be made at the facilities listed here.
In Pennsylvania eligible people can check for a vaccine provider here and make an appointment. The state's map lists which providers have received dose shipments and which have not.
Pennsylvanians can also pre-register on the "Your Turn" website, which notifies people when they are eligible to get a vaccine.
Philadelphia's health department unveiled a website to pre-register for vaccinations. That website will be to express interest in getting a vaccine for these eligible groups. The city will contact people who filled out this interest form when it is time to get their shots at a mass site, a Rite Aid, or Shop Rite receiving doses from the federal government. Those businesses are not handling the appointments directly. You have to go through the waiting list, Farley said.
Philadelphia residents can also sign up for a vaccination through the Black Doctors Consortium website or by calling 484-270-6200.
Montgomery County, Pennsylvania has a pre-registration page for Phases 1B and 1C. It's only for residents age 65 and older, or under 65 with a CDC-identified health condition (listed in that link) that creates higher risk for the coronavirus. The county will only accept pre-registration for people in 1B and 1C for now.
On Tuesday, Jan. 19, Delaware announced its transition to Phase 1B, focusing on people 65 and up. That group includes more than 200,000 people.
The state is scheduling multiple drive-through vaccination events for people 65 or older, and remaining Phase 1A workers, on several dates coming up.
"These vaccination events are by appointment only. Delawareans who are 65 or older can register at de.gov/covidvaccine," the state's webpage says.
What's taking so long?
Health departments across our region have made similar statements regarding the number of vaccine doses they've received from the federal government so far.
In January and February, officials have made similar statements. "We simply are not getting enough vaccine to meet the demand," Philadelphia's health department wrote in a Twitter thread.
Supplies of new vaccines like Johnson & Johnson's single-dose form could further expand availability and would be easier to administer. Though the shot is less effective than Pfizer and Moderna at preventing any infection, results have shown that J&J's shot can prevent severe cases and even offers protection against variants that were not widespread during Pfizer and Moderna's testing period.
Where will I be able to get a vaccine?
Many people are interested in mass vaccination sites, but officials have mentioned a wide variety of places where the vaccine will be offered. Pharmacies, general practitioners, even dentists may be able to provide the vaccine in the future, though their distribution of Pfizer doses will be limited if they don't have access to ultracold storage.
New Jersey is distributing the vaccine at six mass vaccination sites. Here are the three in our area:
- Atlantic County: Atlantic City Convention Center
- Burlington County: Moorestown Mall
- Gloucester County: Rowan College of South Jersey, Sewell
Delaware has held vaccination clinics at its DMVs by appointment only. You can explore other options like getting a vaccine from a pharmacy or your doctor here.
In Philly, the health department is opening six mass vaccination sites - three first-dose clinics, and three second-dose clinics - for people who have expressed interest at phila.gov/vaccineinterest. The city's COVID Call Center can help you sign up if you call 215-685-5488.
What's the cost?
When it's your turn to get the vaccine, you likely won't pay anything.
Some locations may ask for an administration fee to cover their costs of running a facility. Insurance may cover this payment.
How many people have been vaccinated?
As of Feb. 11:
- In Pennsylvania, 1,126,321 first doses have been administered, and 335,291 people have received a second dose.
- In Philadelphia, a total of 134,148 people have received their first dose, and 58,477 of them have received their second dose.
- In Delaware, the state's tracker shows 129,156 doses have been administered.
- In New Jersey, 904,399 people have received their first dose of a vaccine, and nearly 286,000 of them have received their second shot. The state passed 1 million total doses administered on Feb. 8.
When Could I Get the Vaccine?
Answer the questions to calculate your risk profile and see where you fall in your county's and state's vaccine lineup. This estimate is based on a combination of vaccine rollout recommendations from the CDC and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
For a more detailed breakdown of who is included in each priority group, see this methodology.
Source: the Vaccine Allocation Planner for COVID-19 by Ariadne Labs and the Surgo Foundation
Interactive by Amy O’Kruk/NBC