This article was written in 2021. The facts and figures are current as of then. With the lifting of many COVID-19 restrictions, we will no longer be updating the article. While much of it remains true, we encourage our readers to check with CMS and the Medicare program to get the most updated information.

With the approval of multiple vaccinations to combat the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, there have been a lot of questions about their rollout and when things can start to return to normal. The Biden Administration vowed to distribute 100 million vaccination doses to Americans in its first 100 days in office, before doubling this goal to 200 million doses. It successfully reached both goals, and created a new goal of 70 percent of adults receiving at least one dose of the vaccination by the 4th of July.

As of June 3, 2021, roughly 168.7 million Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine (62.9 percent of adults), with around 41 percent of the population now fully vaccinated. Now that we’re getting closer to our goals, when can you receive the COVID shot yourself, if you haven’t already gotten one? More importantly, what does this mean for a return to normal?

What’s the Status of the COVID Vaccine Rollout in the U.S.?

Currently, the COVID-19 vaccine rollout is… interesting. It’s in excellent but worrisome shape at the same time. How is that? Well, we’ve reached the point where three-quarters of seniors (one of the most at-risk populations) have received at least one dose of the vaccines (over 85 percent if you’re following the CDC’s COVID Tracker). As more Americans get vaccinated each day, new cases of COVID-19 and deaths plummet, leading to widespread optimism.

With the hope that we can reach the goal of 70 percent (placing the United States on the edge of herd immunity) comes the potential for vacations, cookouts, and largely relaxed COVID-19 restrictions. For example, in our base state of Pennsylvania, Governor Wolf announced that the mask mandate will be lifted when we reach 70 percent of adults fully vaccinated, though the situation has improved enough that Governor Wolf has set a secondary date of June 28 for the mandate to expire (whichever we reach first). This is coupled with the CDC’s announcement that vaccinated people can safely resume activities like we did before the pandemic, without needing to wear masks or socially distance. These are all reasons to celebrate and applaud the work done by the vaccinators and the people who have done their patriotic duty to protect their loved ones and fellow citizens by getting the vaccine.

That isn’t to say everything is perfect and that we’ll reach the 70 percent goal as easily as the 100 million shots and 200 million shots goals. The rate of vaccinations has been slowing down in recent weeks. While a lot of heavy lifting has been done already with a large percent of people getting vaccinated, there are growing concerns that we may not hit the 4th of July goal or even reach herd immunity at all.

Why is the Rollout Slowing Down?

There are a few explanations as to why the roll out has slowed down in the United States, but the biggest reason is that the people who really wanted a vaccine have gotten it. This group includes the at-risk and highly motivated who were first in line to receive their doses. Now, the group that is left are those that aren’t as excited. Think of it this way. When a new highly prized electronic is about to be released, like a phone or gaming console, there are groups of buyers — the ones who wait in line, the ones who buy it as soon as they can, the ones who will buy it when it’s convenient, and the ones who never want to buy it. Once those first two groups are done, there’s a lull, since the others either were willing to wait or aren’t interested in getting it at all.

When a new highly-prized electronic is about to be released, there are groups of buyers — the ones who wait in line, the ones who buy it as soon as they can, the ones who will buy it when it’s convenient, and the ones who never want to buy it.

The good news is that vaccine hesitancy is dropping almost across the board, but there’s still a large percentage of Americans who are hesitant, depending on the poll.

The other problem is access to vaccines is still limited. While many areas of the country have a surplus of vaccines, that availability isn’t spread across the board. This is especially problematic since many methods of scheduling a vaccination appointment are virtual, making it more difficult for people who don’t own a computer. With the push to expand this access, vaccinations will hopefully continue to grow in availability as the focus shifts from increasing the supply to finding the demand.

When and Where Can I Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Update: Since writing this article, children as young as 5 can receive the COVID-19 vaccine, with tests for children even younger underway and possibly approved soon.

Generally speaking, if you’re an adult in the United States, you should be able to get a vaccine. Currently, the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for children as young as 12, with the Moderna vaccine not far behind. Companies are also researching the safety and effectiveness for even younger children.

Your doctor may also be able to help you find out when you’ll be eligible.

Knowing where you can receive one is the next step. The best place to look is on your state’s COVID website. Most will allow you to find where you can get the vaccine nearby. Many states and pharmacies have walk-in vaccination sites — where you don’t even need an appointment anymore. You can also check with your doctor, who should have details about places with vaccine availability and may even be able to give you the vaccine at their office.

It’s important to check with your state to see specifics and where vaccines are available. The table below offers links to additional resources. Your doctor may also be able to help you find out more.

COVID-19 Vaccination Information by State

Should I Get It When I Can?

If your doctor gives you the OK to get it, then why not? As the CDC reports, there are many benefits to getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Ensuring that as many people are vaccinated as possible will help get this pandemic under control. Not only will this get life back to normal quicker, but it’ll help save thousands of lives in the United States.

There’s also significant evidence that having the vaccine can lower your risk of severe symptoms, even if you do actually develop COVID-19. Not only that, new evidence shows that the vaccines also greatly reduce transmission of COVID-19, lowering your risk of getting someone else sick.

All reputable sources have been impressively thorough in their belief that the vaccines are safe.

Please be aware that some of the viral posts spreading myths and fears about dangers of the vaccine contain just that, myths and fears. All reputable sources have been impressively thorough in their belief that the vaccines are safe. While you may feel some side effects in the days after getting the vaccine, they should pass quickly and are generally fairly mild, though mild is a subjective term and they may not feel that way in the moment.

The pauses on the use of certain vaccines, like the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines, have also raised fears of the vaccines’ side effects, but the pauses are actually a good thing. It shows that the protections in place are working overtime, being extra careful to spot potential concerns. That means, if there were truly something dangerous with the vaccines, it will be publicly dealt with.

Will I Have to Pay Anything?

Nope! The Medicare program will cover the COVID-19 vaccination, and so will most other insurances, so you shouldn’t owe a dime for getting the shot.

● ● ●

Herd vaccination is the safest way that we can get control of the pandemic that’s killed hundreds of thousands of Americans and more across the globe. The sooner we get it under control, the sooner those numbers will stop climbing so fast, and the sooner we can return to some semblance of regular life. For that reason, we owe it to each other and ourselves to get vaccinated, if we can, when it’s our turn.