The COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan in Pennsylvania

Posted on 02/26/21 by Andrew Soergel

Pittsburgh VA Administers Pfizer Vaccinations

En español | Who can get vaccinated now? 

  • Residents and staff of nursing homes and assisted living facilities; health care workers. (Phase 1A) 
  • People 65 and older and all adults with high-risk medical conditions that put them at risk of serious illness. (added to Phase 1A in January) 
  • Philadelphia County receives independent federal funding and is devising its own distribution roadmap, which roughly mirrors the state plan. The city's COVID-19 website has more information about getting a vaccine. 

Where can I get a vaccine? 

  • Health clinics, hospitals and medical providers, many of which are listed on the interactive map featured on the state health department’s COVID-19 vaccine page. The department lists additional locations on its vaccine distribution page. In March, a federal mass vaccination center is expected to open at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia.
  • Check the state’s COVID-19 vaccine website for updates. You can also call the health department at 877-724-3258 toll-free or use the Your Turn eligibility tool to see if you can get a vaccine and sign up for vaccine updates from the health department. The tool asks a series of questions to see if you can get a vaccine but is not required to make an appointment. 
  • Vaccine supplies are limited everywhere and available only to those now eligible under each state’s phased plan. Most vaccine sites require you to schedule an appointment online or by phone. Appointments can be very hard to get, as available time slots are booked quickly, and you may experience long wait times on the phone. If a time slot is not available, you may be put on the site’s waiting list. Some people are signing up at multiple sites to increase chances of getting an appointment. Once you have a confirmed appointment, public health officials ask that you don’t schedule or confirm another with any other provider so that vaccine appointments stay open for others. 

What should I bring to my vaccination appointment? 

Some vaccination sites ask for proof of identity or eligibility. Officials recommend that you bring a driver’s license or other state-issued ID that shows your name, age and state residency, and your health insurance card, if you have one. You will not be charged, but the vaccine provider may bill your insurer a fee for administering the vaccine. 

If you are eligible due to an underlying medical condition or comorbidity, you may need a note from your doctor or some other form of proof. If you are eligible on the basis of your work, bring proof of employment such as a pay stub, badge or letter from your employer. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says to wear a mask at your appointment. 

Who will be able to get vaccinated next? 

  • Next in line is Phase 1B which includes people living and working in congregate care settings who weren't covered in Phase 1A, first responders, correctional officers, food and agriculture workers, postal workers, manufacturing employees, teachers and other education workers, clergy, public transit employees and certain types of caregivers. 
  • Once more vaccines are available, the state will turn to Phase 1C, which includes a large group of essential workers, including transportation and logistics employees, water and wastewater workers, food service staff and people who work in housing construction and finance. 
  • AARP is fighting for older Americans to be prioritized in getting COVID-19 vaccines because the science has shown that older adults, especially those with underlying medical conditions like heart disease and diabetes, are at increased risk for hospitalization and death from COVID-19. 

How will residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities get vaccinated? 

Residents and staff of long-term care facilities are being vaccinated through a federal program that has contracted with CVS and Walgreens to administer COVID-19 vaccines on-site at facilities at no cost. 

Do I have to pay for the vaccination? 

You should not have any out-of-pocket cost for getting the vaccine. AARP fought to make sure the federal government is covering the cost of the vaccine itself. Providers can recoup a fee for administering the shot, but not from consumers. They would be reimbursed by the patient’s insurance company or the government (in the case of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries and the uninsured, for example). 

Scammers are purporting to offer COVID vaccines and treatments and trying to charge for them.  AARP's Fraud Watch Network is tracking the latest scams. 

I’ve heard that some vaccines require a second shot. 

The COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna require two doses. If you get one of these, you’ll need a follow-up dose to be effectively immunized. The recommended second-shot date is three weeks after a first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and four weeks for Moderna’s, but the CDC says an interval of up to six weeks is acceptable. You should get a card from your provider stating when and where to return for the second dose. The state says it will send reminders via text, emails and phone calls.   

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine requires just one shot. 

It’s not yet known how long immunity from a coronavirus vaccine lasts and whether it needs to be administered on a regular basis like a flu shot. 

Should I still wear a mask after getting vaccinated? 

Yes. Experts still need to learn more about the protection the vaccines provide under “real-life conditions,” the CDC says. It could take your body a few weeks to build up immunity after the second dose of a vaccine. And while the Pfizer vaccine is effective at preventing symptoms of COVID-19, it’s not yet clear whether someone who’s been vaccinated can still catch the virus and transmit it to others. 

The vaccine is just one tool that can help slow the spread of the coronavirus. The CDC says it could take months for the population to build up immunity, and it continues to recommend preventive measures such as face masks and social distancing. 

AARP has also called for ongoing monitoring of vaccines, once they are authorized for public use, to identify any risks that weren’t evident in the expedited development and review process. 

Pennsylvania health officials say you can help reduce the spread of COVID-19 by taking these steps:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Cover your mouth with your elbow when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wear a mask inside businesses or when you can’t social distance.

This guide was originally published on Dec. 17. It was updated Feb. 27 with new information on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Also of Interest: 

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