A Roadmap to Vaccination: The Timeline for COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution
The scientific community has already pulled off a monumental feat in developing not one, but two COVID-19 vaccines in just under a year. Now, the medical community needs to follow up with a miracle of its own: administration of these vaccines to the 328 million people who need inoculation against the pandemic. To accomplish this feat takes a coordinated, concerted effort. Thankfully, there’s a rollout plan in place to prioritize distribution based on need. Still, the question on everyone’s mind is, “When will I get the COVID-19 vaccine?”
Vaccination is on a rolling timeline
Right now, there are two vaccines cleared for emergency use in the United States: one from Pfizer-BioNTech and one from Moderna. A third vaccine (AstraZeneca) is already approved overseas, and there are even more undergoing clinical trials. Within a few months, the United States might have access to five or more COVID-19 vaccine types.
Unfortunately, the vaccines given today are not completed in a single dose. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require a booster shot after three or four weeks. This means that full inoculation will be achieved on a rolling basis among the initial vaccine recipients. Outside of this initial group — largely comprising frontline healthcare workers — many citizens haven’t even received their first vaccine.
States are administering vaccines based on risk
By now, most frontline healthcare workers, as well as long-term care providers and residents, have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. But there’s a long road ahead. Hundreds of millions of U.S. citizens still need immunization.
The next step will require careful planning and administration of the vaccine to various groups. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published recommendations for vaccine rollout. This plan outlines groups that are most at risk when it comes to the virus, with the goal of reducing severe cases and relieving the burden on the healthcare system. However, each state’s governor is responsible for creating a state-specific plan for vaccine administration.
In general, states are following a vaccine administration plan in this order:
- Frontline healthcare workers
- Long-term care residents
- Emergency personnel (firefighters, police officers, and EMTs)
- Frontline essential workers (postal workers, grocery store staff, educators, etc.)
- Individuals aged 75+
- Individuals aged 65-74
- Individuals under 65 with underlying medical conditions
- Other essential workers (transportation, food service, media, housing, etc.)
- The general public aged 16-64
Even with this vaccine administration plan in place, though, there is much work to be done. Several challenges stand in the way of fully vaccinating the United States. One of the biggest is ensuring that people follow up for their vaccination booster in a timely manner and withholding enough vaccines to make full vaccination possible.
Supply chains also will be a big point of focus across the nation. Each state will need to source vaccines from the manufacturers and distribute them to vaccine administrators efficiently, so people can receive the vaccine as soon as possible.
Countless agencies and administrators are working together to overcome these hurdles, but things likely won’t be back to normal until the end of 2021. Until then, everyone must come together and do their part to stop the spread of the virus and encourage widespread vaccination.