When can you get the COVID-19 vaccine? How will you know when you can get it? Where will you be able to get it?
These are all questions that people are asking when it comes to getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
In recent days, Gov. Andy Beshear and Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health, have released the state’s plans for COVID-19 vaccinations across the state.
Because many readers have posed questions about the vaccine, we have compiled a list of questions and answers about the vaccine. Some answers are more definitive than others as there are still many unknowns.
Q – When can I receive the vaccine?
A – Dr. Stack announced additional phases of the state’s vaccination rollout on Jan. 4. The first phase, 1A consists of individuals in long-term care facilities and assisted living facilities as well as health care personnel. The Whitley County Health Department is working with providers such as Baptist Health Corbin to ensure that all health care personnel have the opportunity to receive the vaccine. Long-term care facilities and assisted living facilities are supposed to receive the vaccine through Walgreens and CVS as part of the federal pharmacy partnership program.
The next phases of the vaccine distribution include phase 1B (first responders, anyone over the age of 70, K-12 school personnel), phase 1C (anyone over the age of 60, anyone older than 16 with the Center for Disease Control highest risk C19 risk conditions, all essential workers), phase 2 (anyone over the age of 40), phase 3 (anyone over the age of 16) and phase 4 (children under the age of 16 if the vaccine is approved for this age group).
The timeline for when the state will move through the phases is unclear. Some regions could potentially move through the phases more quickly than others depending on the region’s demographic.
“I would hate to try to guess when we will be able to transition,” said Marcy Rein, Public Health Director at the Whitley County Health Department. “We are really trying to keep in touch with the counties surrounding us and figuring out who has got how much vaccine and how many people are on the list that ‘we couldn’t contact last week, but we think we can contact them this week,’ so it is really hard to predict going forward.”
Q – How will I know when I can receive the vaccination?
A – Rein said the health department plans to utilize a variety of means to disseminate information about the changing of phases including social media, the department’s website and local media outlets.
Q – Where will I be able to receive the vaccine?
A – Rein said she has broadly encouraged health care providers to apply for authorization to administer the vaccine. She said that many locations have already applied, but only a few have made it through the entire process and received approval thus far. Fewer still is the number of locations that have been approved and received the doses of the vaccine. As of print, Rein said that the only locations she was aware of that actually had the vaccine included Baptist Health Corbin, the Whitley County Health Department and Bryant Family Medicine.
While it is not widely available now, Rein said she hopes the vaccine will eventually be as accessible as the flu vaccine.
Q – How much will the vaccine cost?
A – According to the Kentucky Public Health frequently asked questions guide, “the plan is for the vaccine doses purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars will be given to the American people at no cost. You could be billed for an office visit or administration fee for administration of the vaccine, however, you cannot be turned away from receiving the vaccine due to lack of payment.”
Rein said that if the administration fee is charged, it is generally charged to a person’s insurance company, but if a person does not have insurance, there is a pot of money with the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) where the office can apply to have the administrative fee paid.
Q – Why would I not be able to receive the vaccine?
A – According to the Kentucky Public Health frequently asked questions guide, individuals who have a severe allergy to a vaccine component (i.e., one that causes anaphylaxis or requires medical intervention) or individuals who have a history of severe allergy to any vaccine or injectable medication should speak with their healthcare provider before receiving the vaccine.
Q – How long does vaccine immunity last?
A – According to the Kentucky Public Health frequently asked questions guide, “We do not yet know how long immunity lasts after infection or vaccination.”
Rein said there is an ongoing study to determine how long the immunity lasts.
The original research question for the Pfizer vaccine questioned if the vaccine could prevent serious illness, but it did not question if the vaccine would stop the spread of the virus. Rein said there is ongoing research to determine how long the vaccine immunity lasts and if the vaccine also prevents the spread of the virus.
Q – What precautions must I follow if I have already received the vaccine?
A – Both Rein and the Kentucky Public Health guide recommend that individuals should continue wearing a mask and social distancing.
According to the Kentucky Public Health guide, “Scientists estimate that to control COVID-19, about seven or eight of every ten people will need to be immune.”
Q – What age must a child be in order to receive the vaccine?
A – The Kentucky Public Health guide states the Pfizer vaccine was approved for individuals age 16 or older and the Moderna vaccine was approved for individuals age 18 and over.
There is ongoing research to determine if it is safe to administer the vaccine to individuals younger than the recommended age.