In Pennsylvania, vaccines are being rolled out under a phased approach, following CDC guidelines. The phases are as follows:
Phase 1a: Frontline health workers and nursing home residents and staff
Phase 1b: People who are 75 and older, have high-risk medical conditions, or live in congregate residential settings, and people who work in congregate residential settings, with high-risk populations, in public transit, in food distribution, prep, or service, in childcare or education, in high-volume essential retail, or who manufacture critical goods.
Phase 1c: People aged 65-74 years, and people who work in maintenance/janitorial, utilities, postal and package delivery, higher education, finance, transportation, construction, IT and telecommunications, public health or legal professions.
Phase 2: All individuals not previously covered who are 16 years and older and do not have a contraindication to the vaccine.
When will teachers and other essential workers get the COVID-19 vaccine?
This is the second group currently in line to get the vaccine. The first doses of the vaccine will go to about 24 million health workers and nursing home residents across the country. Next in line: essential workers like police officers and teachers, though no firm date has been set. Members of ACIP, the panel that has been making the recommendations, say that groups disproportionately affected by the virus —especially minorities and lower-income people — should have good access to vaccines, too.
When the vaccine is widely available, it is likely that doses will be supplied by some combination of hospitals, private medical practices, pharmacies, and government-established vaccination centers. Health officials expect to conduct informational outreach and some mobile vaccination clinics, but will be looking to members of the public to be aware of who is eligible for vaccine doses and be proactive about getting involved in the process
Can my employer require that I get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Possibly. It depends on several factors, including your employer and your personal situation. Still, it’s likely that more employers will encourage the vaccine rather than require it.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has updated its guidance on vaccines, saying that emergency authorization does not change an employer’s legal ability to require a vaccine. If you don’t want or can’t get the vaccine, your employer might have to accommodate you, depending on your reasons. But if your employer insists, you could get fired. Pennsylvania, like most of the country, is an “at-will” state, so your employer can fire you for any reason at any time, except for certain identity reasons (you can’t be fired for being a woman, for example). (Union members, however, are usually protected by “just cause” clauses, which say that workers can only be fired for cause.)
Yes, because they are at higher risk of complications. Nursing home and assisted living residents, who make up just 1% of the population, have accounted for 6% of cases and 40% of deaths.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?
The vaccine has been approved as safe for most people. The FDA granted emergency authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccinefor people ages 16 and up. Documents published by the FDA show that the vaccine is about 95% effective at preventing infection with the coronavirus, even forthose at highest risk of severe COVID-19 because of their age, weight, race, or chronic medical conditions. The Moderna vaccine has also been approved. It is similar in effectiveness and is also a two-dose vaccine, but can be kept at normal freezer temperatures, unlike the Pfizer vaccine, which requires special freezers for longer-term storage.
Who should and shouldn’t get the COVID-19 vaccine?
The CDC recommends that most people 16 years and older get the vaccine. (The Moderna vaccine was tested in people 18 and older.) But there are some exceptions. People with a history of life-threatening allergic reactionsare advised to not get the shots because two health-care workers in the UK suffered such reactions. (Both have recovered.) The COVID-19 vaccine was not tested in pregnancy, but experts say it’s still worth considering if you’re expecting. A CDC committee hasrecommended that pregnant health care workers decide with their doctors whether to receive the vaccine.
It isn’t unusual for a vaccine to require multiple dosesto provoke the immune system to respond most effectively. It’s possible that as more data is collected, a single shot proves sufficient, but for now the data indicates an average of 52% effectiveness after the first shot, and peak protection after two injections.
In trials, the Pfizer vaccine was 95% effective in preventing COVID-19 after receiving both doses, and the Moderna vaccine stands at 94%, both significantly more effective than many scientists anticipated.
What are the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine?
The vaccine can cause side effects, but experts sayyou shouldn’t let that stop you from getting it if it’s considered safe for you to do so. For most people, if symptoms appear, they will be mild or moderate, and disappear within a day or two. The most commonly reported side effects include pain and swelling around the injection site, headache, fatigue, fever, and muscle pain. Serious adverse reactions are rare. Discomfort from fever or pain is normal. You may feel like you have the flu for a couple days, and that’s OK. But if redness or tenderness where you got the shot increases after 24 hours, or the side effects are worrying you or aren’t going away after a few days, call your doctor. If you experience side effects after the first shot, you should still get the second shot, unless a vaccination provider or your doctor tells you otherwise.
Researchers in multiple countries have worked on vaccines. Pfizer is based in the U.S., while BioNTech is based in Germany. Moderna is based in the U.S.
Why does the COVID-19 vaccine have to be kept so cold?
Because of their ingredients. The Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at minus-94 degrees Fahrenheit because of itsdelicate key ingredient: messenger RNA, which degrades if it’s not kept cold. The doses arrive packed in dry ice and then need to be transferred to an ultracold freezer. The freezers, which are rare outside of research hospitals, have inner doors for each shelf and contain digital thermometers to make sure they stay at the proper temperature. Smaller facilities that receive partial shipments of vaccine can keep it cold on dry ice for up to 20 days. Before use, the vaccine must be thawed for half an hour at room temperature or three hours in a refrigerator.
What about people who don’t want to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
The short answer: If people refuse to get the vaccine, it will take longer for the pandemic to end. Experts estimate that around 70% of the population — more than 200 million people — in the U.S. need to gain immunity, either from coronavirus infection or a vaccine, for the pandemic to end. But national polling shows that manyAmericans will be reluctant to get COVID-19 vaccines, at least at first. Not allhealth workers are expected to want them either, but some experts suspect that people who have witnessed COVID-19’s worst symptoms will be especially interested. Though health experts consider vaccines to be among the greatest public health achievements, some people have doubts for various reasons. Of greatest concern in the pandemic is whether minority communities, which have been hit hardest by COVID-19, will hesitate to be vaccinated because of negative interactions with the health care community they've experienced personally, or know of historically.
Do I still have to wear a mask after I get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes. No vaccine is perfect, and experts say the pandemic won’t be over until about 70% of the population has immunity. It is possible, though rare, that you could get the vaccine and still contract or spread the virus. The general public is not expected to have widespread access to the vaccine until the late winter or early spring. So mitigation efforts, including masks and social distancing, are likely going to be around for a while. By mid-2021, experts predict we’ll know enough about how well this vaccine blocks infections at a population level to determine when we can start scaling back on mitigation measures. So don’t throw out your masks just yet.