While the COVID-19 vaccine distribution continues to roll out nationwide, many are wondering: Am I eligible for the vaccine yet? And if so, how do I get it?
While some are unsure whether they qualify, many of those who have tried to sign up for the vaccine have experienced difficulties. In fact, in a recent survey, 48% said they know someone 65 and over who has struggled to get the vaccine. Working together, we can help those in our community who want to get the vaccine!
First, it is helpful to know that the federal government purchased the COVID-19 vaccine to speed up the distribution and ease questions of cost to consumers. Although the federal government purchased the vaccines to be available for all citizens, the federal government is not distributing the vaccine to people. Distribution of the vaccine to individuals is up to each state to accomplish.
The federal government provided recommended guidance to each state when the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) established vaccine guidelines for each state to consider as they determine the eligibility of its citizens for the vaccine. Since the vaccine distribution varies by state, the eligibility for a vaccine and the sign-up process varies across the country.
Regional Contact Info
The best way to find out if you are eligible for the vaccine is to contact your state’s Department of Health website, which will have dedicated information on eligibility, vaccine sites, and contact info for your questions. In my home state of Arizona, the COVID-19 helpline is available Monday-Friday 8am-5pm, it is likely similar in your state.
If you are not able to find the information you need on your state’s website, you can also contact the CDC by telephone at 1-(800) CDC-INFO or 1-(800) 232-4636 and they will be able to point you in the right direction.
Your Pre-Existing Conditions May Help You Get the Vaccine
While a pre-existing condition is not typically something we celebrate, in this instance, it can help you get the vaccine sooner. Take an inventory of your pre-existing conditions as you assess the eligibility categories in your state. Do you have high blood pressure? Diabetes? A BMI over 30? If so, you may be eligible for a vaccine sooner than if you did not have a pre-existing condition. On your state’s website, there will be a list of the pre-existing conditions that qualify you to be eligible for the vaccine.
Tech to the Rescue
Once a box of COVID-19 vaccines is opened, the clock starts and the dose must be administered timely or the vaccine spoils and cannot be used. To prevent spoiled vaccines going into the trash, some pharmacists have asked pharmacy patrons if they would like to get a vaccine now? While this is not likely to happen for most of us, we can help reduce spoilage by attending the appointments we set and encourage others to do so, too.
Regionally, websites are popping up to help connect people with vaccine doses, including doses that are expiring. In New York, a new website called HiDrB.com is connecting consumers to vaccines. With more than 260,000 sign ups as of this writing, Dr.B is on to something! With websites like this popping up all over, search in your area to see if there is a new tool that helps ease the challenges of signing up and finding a vaccine.
If you are wondering whether you are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine or if you have struggled to sign up for the vaccine, make sure to look up your state’s Department of Health website and remember to keep your pre-existing conditions in mind. And don’t forget to check to see if there are new tools that help connect you to a vaccine.
Jan Dubauskas is a healthcare expert, enthusiastic insurance pro, attorney and mom serving as Vice President of healthinsurance.com.
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