With the approval of two vaccinations to combat the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, and more possibly on the way, there have been a lot of questions about its rollout and when most people can expect access to the vaccine. As of January 19, 2021, roughly 10.6 million Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine. According to the United States Census Bureau, there are more than 328.2 million people in the U.S., which means just shy of three percent of Americans have at least started the vaccination process. Only 0.4 percent of Americans have received both doses.

So, if you’re waiting for your chance, when can you expect to receive the COVID shot yourself?

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

Unfortunately, the rollout has been much slower than anticipated in the U.S. Federal officials hoped to give at least 20 million Americans the COVID vaccine by December 31, 2020. However, at the end of 2020, only about 2.8 million Americans had actually received a vaccine. There are a few reasons for the setbacks.

Why the Slow Rollout?

Among the most widely discussed of these reasons has been the lack of a centralized plan from the federal government, causing confusion and lack of funding and resources for the states. This has led to conflicts between states and different entities within states, as well as with the current Trump administration. When coupled with the overwhelming demand that many states have been facing, this problem has put a strain on the entire system that’s caused issues.

Coupled with the overwhelming demand that many states have been facing, the lack of central organization has put a strain on the entire system.

Along with issues relating to the federal handling of the rollout, the timing of the rollout has caused issues. The holiday season has been blamed for some of the slowdown, due to less staffing and shorter hours at facilities that administer the vaccines. At the same time, there were reports of winter storms causing delays for delivery of some of the vaccines in certain areas of the country.

At least one of the vaccines must be stored at an extremely low temperature, which not every shipping facility or vaccination center can do.

The other two main concerns that have led to the slowdown are due to logistics. First, the makeup of the two current vaccines have created what’s been called the “most complex logistical challenge since World War II.” At least one of the vaccines must be stored at an extremely low temperature, which not every shipping facility or vaccination center has the capabilities to do. Second, there’s the two-shot nature of the vaccines. The current strategy has been to hold vaccines back so that the people who received the first jab could be guaranteed to be followed by the second after a few weeks. This has created a backlog of people waiting to get their first dose of the vaccine.

Will the Rollout Improve Going Forward?

The holidays are over, and there are ways the government can boost both the production and distribution of the vaccines to the public. There are many proposed ways to ramp up the vaccination rollout, producing a sense of optimism that the rollout will improve soon.

The Biden Administration has vowed to distribute 100 million vaccination doses to Americans in its first 100 days in office. (This would vaccinate roughly 50 million Americans, since the current vaccinations require two shots.) It has also proposed additional funding for a national vaccination program.

When Can I Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Due to the decentralized approach of the current COVID-19 vaccination rollout, we cannot give a direct estimate about when you will have the ability to get vaccinated. It depends on your state. Some states are already opening vaccinations up to Medicare-aged citizens or citizens with chronic conditions, while others are restricting vaccinations to frontline workers and residents of care facilities. Florida has taken a first come, first served approach.

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

It is important to check with your state to see what phase they are in and who vaccines are available to. The table below offers links to additional resources. Your doctor may also be able to help you find out when you’ll be eligible.

COVID-19 Vaccination Information by State

COVID Vaccine Phases

What are these ‘phases’ you’re seeing? They’re suggested groups, loosely guided by the federal government, that states use as priority guidelines for who should receive the vaccinations and when. In some cases, if a municipality has vaccinated everyone in Phase 1-A, they may move on to Phase I-B, even if the state itself isn’t there yet. The aim with the phases is to promote the prevention of morbidity and mortality and the preservation of societal functioning. In other words, the higher-priority groups are people who are at higher risk with severe COVID symptoms or death and people who are needed to continue working. As we move through the phases, the populations become less at risk or less necessary during the current crisis. The general phases and groups are:

Phase Prevention of Morbidity & Mortality Preservation of Societal Functioning
Phase 1-A Residents of Care Facilities Health Care Personnel
Phase 1-B People Aged 75 and Up Frontline Essential Workers
Phase 1-C People Aged 65 to 74 or 16 to 64 with High-Risk Conditions Other Essential Workers
Phase 2 People Aged 16 and Up without High-Risk Conditions  

Where Can I Get the Vaccine?

If you’re able to receive the vaccine, 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 what areas are giving out the vaccine near you. Some states have begun setting up mass vaccination centers, where thousands can receive a vaccination each day. Others may have deals set up with commercial pharmacies to provide mass vaccination. You may also check with your doctor, who should have details about places with vaccine availability. To know for sure which option is best for you, we suggest you check the state table above.

Should I Get It When I Can?

If your doctor gives you the OK to get it, then why not? 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, it’ll save thousands of lives in the United States. There is also evidence that having the vaccine can lower your risk of severe symptoms, even in the rare case that you develop COVID-19.

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 are 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 be fairly mild.

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.

Could the Situation Change?

Of course, it can, for both better or worse. While the early fears that the vaccine may not be as effective against the new UK variant of COVID turned out to be unfounded, there’s always a chance that could happen with another strain. That’s the worst case scenario, though. There are currently almost a hundred different COVID-19 vaccines in some stage of development or distribution. The more of those that are deemed safe and become available, the more available the opportunity to become vaccinated should become. This could move up the time frame of moving through the different phases, since there’d be a greater availability of vaccinations.

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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.