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Addressing Some of Your Frequent COVID Vaccine Questions
Since the beginning of the state rollout of the Coronavirus vaccine, I have been receiving dozens of calls from constituents with questions about the Wolf Administration and the PA Department of Health are developing. I have been in constant contact with healthcare leaders and local officials in all three counties I serve to ensure that they are receiving the resources they need to do this essential service.
In an effort to help clarify some of the more common questions I have been hearing, I have collected a few of the most frequently asked questions and their respective answers to help constituents as they grapple with how the vaccine rollout will impact them and their loved ones. Below are those questions, as well as links to other resources related to the vaccine rollout:
- I keep hearing that the vaccine is available in phases, but what does that mean?
- My mother lives at home, when can she get a vaccine?
- Per PA’s plan, individuals age 75 and older are able to receive a vaccine in phase 1B – after hospital and health care personnel, nursing facilities, and first responders. Individuals 65-74 are eligible to receive vaccine in phase 1C. PA will be contracting with health care personnel like your doctor and local pharmacists to administer the vaccine once it is available. If your mother receives formal in-home services or supports, she is part of PA’s plan for phase 1A.
- What about younger seniors – when can they get a vaccine?
- Per PA’s plan, individuals age 65-74 are eligible to receive vaccine in phase 1C. If they are immunocompromised or have a diagnosis that makes them at a higher risk, they can be vaccinated in phase 1B and should consult their primary care physician.
- When will first responders get vaccinated?
- First responders are part of phase 1 and PA has ordered hospitals/health systems to assist in administering vaccines to their local EMS/EMTs in phase 1A for health care workers. Fire personnel and law enforcement are included in phase 1B as critical, essential non-medical workers.
- When will nursing facility residents be vaccinated?
- Nursing facilities and other long-term care facilities like personal care homes and assisted living residences will receive vaccine through the federal pharmacy partnership. Federal distribution is through CVS and Walgreens and began in PA on December 28.
- I am a private physician (or chiropractor, optometrist, counselor, therapist, etc.), how do I get my vaccine?
- Beginning on January 6, 2021, DOH Secretary Dr. Levine issued an order requiring hospitals and health systems to assist community-based or unaffiliated health care personnel in being immunized. Phase 1A health care workers should contact their local hospital/health system to sign-up their health care practice staff and/or use PA’s new Vaccine Provider map to locate a local provider enrolled with the state to administer vaccine. The map also notes whether or not the enrolled vaccine provider has been in receipt of vaccine doses to distribute. (Link to the map below)
- When can mental health care providers get vaccinated?
- Mental health care providers, both residential and outpatient, are included in phase 1A. They should consult the Vaccine Provider map to locate a local provider with vaccine.
- What if they run out of vaccine for people to get their second dose?
- The Pfizer vaccine requires a second dose after 21 days from the first and the Moderna vaccine requires a second dose after 28 days. For every dose of vaccine that the federal government distributes, the second dose is withheld to ensure it will be available.
- I’m healthy and live at home, when can I be vaccinated?
- Vaccinating the general public is now part of phase 2 of the distribution plan. Depending on how much vaccine is available and how quickly PA moves through phases 1A-1C, will determine how soon vaccine will be available for the general public. The vaccine is voluntary.
- Can my employer force me to get vaccinated? What if I am a health care worker?
- The vaccine is not required; however, employers and businesses could impose requirements for those choosing not to be vaccinated, such as safety precautions or requirements. Everyone, including health care workers, are strongly encouraged to be vaccinated by federal and state public health officials.
- When will school teachers get vaccinated?
- Medical personnel at schools are included in 1A but those with non-medical direct student contact, such as teachers and staff, are part of phase 1B of the state distribution plan.
- Are children able to get the vaccine?
- Currently, the Pfizer vaccine is only approved for age 16 and older and the Moderna vaccine is only approved for age 18 and older.
Other useful resources:
- COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions
- COVID-19 Vaccine Coverage FAQ
- COVID-19 Vaccine Provider Enrollment
- Federal Pharmacy Partnership (Vaccinating LTC Facilities) Fact Sheet
- COVID-19 Vaccine Overview for Phase 1A health care personnel unaffiliated with hospital/health system
- NEW: Pennsylvania Vaccine Provider Map
I hope that these resources are of use to you as we enter what I believe to be the last phase of the coronavirus pandemic.
If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to call my offices for direct assistance. My staff is constantly receiving information from the Republican Caucus as well as monitoring changes from the Department of Health. They would be happy to help you in any way they are empowered to do so.
Stay healthy and safe.