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COVID-19 Vaccine Fact Sheet for Individuals in Phase 1

Background

Getting Pennsylvanians immunized with a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine is an essential step in reducing the number of virus-related cases, hospitalizations and deaths. The Department of Health's (Department's) goal is to give anyone who wants to be vaccinated against COVID-19 the opportunity to do so. The Department will use a three-phased approach to distribute the vaccine to 66 counties in Pennsylvania when it becomes available due to limited supply—Philadelphia County will get an allotment of vaccine that is separate from Pennsylvania's state total.  

Who Will Get the Vaccine in Phase 1?

The Department's three-phased allocation approach follows the recommendations issued by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), a federal advisory committee of medical and public health experts, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  To develop its recommendations ACIP identified the following four ethical principles as guidance: maximize benefits and minimize harms; promote justice; mitigate health inequities; and promote transparency.  

Phase 1 focuses on those with the highest risk or most critical workforce because of the limited doses available.

Why Are Healthcare Personnel and Long-Term Care Facility Staff and Residents Being Prioritized in 1A?

There are several ethical justifications for this approach. First, vaccination of healthcare personnel preserves healthcare services essential to the COVID-19 response and the overall healthcare system, maximizing benefit. Healthcare personnel who work in a unit that treats COVID-19 patients are more likely to be exposed to the virus, potentially requiring them to remain home during a time when their services are critical to the commonwealth's COVID-19 response. We also know that as of December 22, more than 18,100 health care workers have tested positive. This is referred to as a multiplier effect: by vaccinating healthcare personnel, we not only protect the healthcare personnel but also protect the patients that for whom they are caring for. Additionally, across the country long-term care facility residents have experienced the highest rates of death from COVID-19, so vaccination of this vulnerable population helps minimize harms.

Second, the Department has designed this prioritization for Phase 1A in a way that promotes equity. Adopting the CDC  definition of healthcare personnel, which is broad, promotes equity by giving every at-risk individual a fair opportunity to receive the vaccine and also addresses the elevated occupational risk of exposure for those who are unable to work from home.

Third, this approach will help address the disproportionate socioeconomic and racial/ethnic impact of the pandemic on the Latinx and Black or African American communities. While racial and ethnic minorities tend to be underrepresented as clinicians, they are overrepresented as other lower-wage healthcare personnel.  The broad definition of healthcare personnel encompasses those racial and ethnic minorities in forward-facing roles who would not be included in the prioritized groups if the first phase focused solely on clinicians.

Lastly, the Department is being transparent by publishing Pennsylvania's COVID-19 Interim Vaccine Plan. Upon publishing, the Department noted it is continuing to receive feedback and will be modifying the plan and posting public updates.

Am I Required to Get the Vaccine?

No, the COVID-19 vaccine will not be mandatory. However, stopping a pandemic requires using all the tools available. Vaccines work with your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. Other steps, like wearing a mask, physical distancing, washing your hands and downloading COVID Alert PA will help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus and spreading it to others if you are exposed. Together, getting the COVID-19 vaccination and following CDC's recommendations to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from COVID-19.

Will I Be Charged for the Vaccine?

More information on insurance coverage and cost of the vaccine is available on the Pennsylvania Insurance Department website.

Is It Safe?

Yes, COVID-19 vaccines are safe.  Every vaccine trial goes through a rigorous approval process before any vaccine is distributed. We understand that some people may be concerned about getting vaccinated. While these vaccines are being developed as quickly as possible, routine processes and procedures remain in place to ensure the safety of any vaccine that is authorized or approved for use. Safety is a top priority, and there are many reasons to get vaccinated. These include protecting yourself, your loved ones and your community. 

How Will I Know Where to Find the Vaccine? 

Once the vaccine is available to the public, the Department will use the CDC's VaccineFinder portal to show where people can be vaccinated.

Resources for More Information

The Pennsylvania Department of Health's Interim Vaccine Plan can be found on the Department's website.
More information on COVID-19 can be found on the Department's website: www.health.pa.gov

Updated: 1/19/2021