The COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the US has been chaotic, but the bottom line is this: Two extremely safe and effective vaccines are available and millions of doses have already been given. Health officials are also optimistic about better distribution, and President Joe Biden has set an ambitious goal of handing out 100 million more doses of the vaccine by his 100th day in office.
Meanwhile, the majority of Americans just have to sit tight.
It is unclear when the vaccine will be available to everyone. Estimates range from this April to summer to fall for the holidays. Suk.
Familiarize yourself with your local eligibility guidelines – and check them weekly.
Each state decides who gets priority in its vaccine rollout, and while there are similarities (all states put healthcare workers who spend time around infected patients at the top of their lists), plans vary. For example, some states have given priority to people aged 65 and over; others have focused on people at high-risk medical conditions.
So your first step should be to make sure you really understand the current prioritization and distribution plan in your area.
“This information can be found on health department websites, shared in daily news conferences or even posted on Twitter,” said Jonathan Leizman, medical director of Premise Health.
Because these plans are fluid, and because they are so heavily dependent on supply – which is a big issue right now – people should check in on their state’s distribution plans regularly, suggested Ian Gonsenhauser, head of quality and patient safety at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
“Once a week should be sufficient,” he said.
Social media accounts from reputable sources, such as local officials and health departments, often distribute brief summaries of the latest information, which can be an easy way to stay up to date with vaccine-related news, Gonsenhauser said.
Remember: Most Americans will probably not roll up their sleeves until at least spring. In a press conference today, Dr. Anthony Fauci – the country’s leading infectious disease expert – said if 70-80% of Americans are able to receive the vaccine in mid or late summer, we could see some shine of normalcy in the fall.
Know your distribution pages.
Once you understand the prioritization plan around you, “identify where in your area the vaccine is offered,” Gonsenhauser said. “Is it offered in mini-clinics? In pharmacies? Is it offered in grocery stores, is it through your local health care system or elsewhere? ”
Again, each state handles this in its own way, but you need to be able to find sites through your state and / or your local health department.
“The same thing we ask people to do to vote, I will ask for this.”
– Ian Gonsenhauser, Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
Once you have a sense of where the vaccine is being offered near you, “I would find out the contact information and contact them to see if you can already plan your appointment,” Gonsenhauser said.
Ask if there is a waiting list. And ask if you are eligible to be placed on it. At this point, most vaccination sites simply maintain waiting lists of people who are already eligible to be vaccinated and who would like to be contacted if there are additional doses. However, some areas allow residents to sign up for alerts that let them know when they are able to be vaccinated. (New Jersey, for example, allows people to pre-register for vaccines and announcements through a portal.)
Again, plan to check your local distribution sites regularly as states add more all the time. Places like smaller pharmacies may not offer the vaccine yet, but they may in the coming months – especially when a likely second generation of vaccines becomes available.
Check with your doctor.
If you have a primary care physician, Gonsenhauser said, it is a good idea to contact them and chat about any risk factors you may have for the vaccine.
“There are only a few,” he said. “The vast majority of individuals find that the vaccine is completely safe.” However, if you have had an allergic reaction to other types of vaccines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you talk to your doctor before receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. And people with an allergy to PEG or polysorbate should does not get a mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.
The Biden administration has expressed a desire to get primary care physicians to help speed up the distribution of the vaccine, explained Gail Shulby, co-chair of the Duke University Health System’s universal flu vaccination and COVID-19 vaccination planning working groups. But at this point, there are no clear details on how it all works.
It’s still worth touching the base with your doctor now. “I would recommend that if a person happens to have the opportunity to interact with their primary health care provider in the short term, that they express their desire to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus,” Shulby said.
Your primary care physician can also answer questions you have about the process, and can clear up any concerns you may have about the many vaccine-related myths currently circulating. “If you have a pre-existing condition and would like to consult a doctor before receiving the vaccine, consider scheduling a virtual consultation with your primary care provider,” Leizman recommended.
All that said is it does not need to talk to your doctor to get vaccinated. So if you do not have an established primary care physician, or it is unlikely that you will get an appointment with yours before you are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, do not worry.
“It’s definitely not a bad time to try to find a primary care physician if you do not have one. If this is why you go out and chase someone, it’s an added bonus, ”Gonsenhauser said. “But it is not required. They review all of this information with you when you go and are vaccinated against COVID. ”
Make a plan for vaccination day – and immediately after.
“The same as we ask people to vote, I will ask,” Gonsenhauser said.
So make sure you know when you can make an appointment. Make sure you remember the day it is scheduled. Make sure you have a way to get there on time and that you do not miss it. Know that the appointment may take a while, especially since vaccine providers have been instructed to see recipients for 15 minutes after their shot to monitor possible allergic reactions.
Also have a plan for after. You may develop common side effects such as fever, chills or headache and may not be able to jump straight back into work or childcare. Expect to take it easy a bit, and adjust your schedule accordingly.
Be honest about where you are in the queue. And continue to wear your mask.
It can be hard to cope with the emotions involved in knowing that there are vaccines, but just out of reach. And there are already many reports of people trying to use influence or tricks to jump the line.
“People should not try to play the system by giving a wrong presentation of their qualifications for prioritization for vaccination,” Shulby said.
Also, do not think that you can harass a planner to somehow give you an earlier period of time, or that you get in faster by making more appointments. The only thing that achieves is to slow down everything for everyone – you included, Gonsenhauser said.
Both before and after vaccination, it is important that all Americans continue to take the same precautions. Wash your hands, keep the social distance and wear a mask. It will be a while before we reach herd immunity and life is able to return to normal.
But we’ll come eventually.
“As you prepare to receive the vaccine, stop and take a deep breath. Think of a future where the pandemic is a problem of the past, because the vaccine has been promised, ”said Gonsenhauser. “And that’s really the motivation for all of us to do this.”
A HuffPost Guide to Coronavirus
As COVID-19 cases rise, it is more important than ever to stay connected and informed. Join the HuffPost community today. (It’s free!)