EXPLAINER: Vaccine push gains steam but many still face wait

Virus Outbreak New York Vaccines

More Americans are now eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine but they may still face a wait for their first shot even as supplies increase.

Drugstore pharmacists are now doling out the shots in many states, and sports arenas and fairgrounds are planning big clinics. This latest push is focused for now on people deemed most vulnerable to the coronavirus.

The government this week announced it will no longer hold back the required second doses of vaccines, boosting supplies for first shots.

A closer look:

WHEN IS MY TURN?

It all depends on your age, your health and where you work or live. States ultimately determine the order in which people qualify for the vaccine, although the federal government is offering guidance.

First up: Front-line health care workers and nursing home residents, who started receiving shots last month. States are now expanding to other categories to include others deemed at high risk from COVID-19, like people age 75 and older, firefighters and teachers.

This week, federal health officials urged states to speed things up even more and lower the threshold to age 65 and up. Florida and Georgia and Washington, D.C., had already started doing this.

Federal officials also suggested including people under 65 who have certain health problems that make them more vulnerable if they get sick.

The vaccine is likely months away for most younger people. The two vaccines available in the U.S. haven't been authorized for children.

WHERE CAN I GET THE VACCINE?

The options are expanding and vary depending on where you live.

Pharmacies are already doling out vaccines to eligible customers in states like Alaska, California, Florida, New Jersey and Texas. That list will grow and it will include grocers and retailers like Walmart that have pharmacies, aside from just drugstores like CVS or Walgreens.

Football stadiums, major league ballparks and fairgrounds are being turned into vaccination sites around the country so health officials can ramp up shots while allowing people to maintain social distance.

A vaccination site opened Wednesday at New York City’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, which was used as a field hospital after the coronavirus pandemic first struck last spring.

Check with your state or local health department for information on open sites near you. T he Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ’s website offers links to state health departments and their vaccination plans.

Some states like Arizona, California and Virginia have allowed counties to determine who is eligible to receive the vaccine next, said Jennifer Tolbert of the non-profit Kaiser Family Foundation.

WILL I NEED AN APPOINTMENT?