About COVID-19 Vaccine
In the United States, there is not yet an authorized or approved vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The federal government and partners (e.g., pharmaceutical companies) have been working since the pandemic started to make one or more COVID-19 vaccines available as soon as possible. Many COVID-19 vaccine candidates are currently in development or under evaluation. Early results from clinical studies on several of these vaccines look very promising.
COVID-19 vaccine will not be approved for release in the U.S. unless the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined it to be safe and effective. Due to the critical need for release of COVID vaccines, early vaccine use may be allowable only under an FDA Emergency Use Authorization, prior to the vaccine receiving full FDA licensure. An Emergency Use Authorization does not bypass requirements to show that the vaccine is safe and effective.
COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution in Philadelphia
The Philadelphia Department of Public Health is the lead agency in overseeing distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to residents of Philadelphia. Distribution will be different than for other vaccines. Healthcare providers and pharmacies will not be able to order this vaccine from manufacturers and suppliers directly. All ordering, storing, administration, and reporting of COVID-19 vaccine use will be managed or overseen by the Health Department. These processes must be conducted in accord with rules and practice guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan
In mid-October, the Department of Public Health submitted a draft COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as was required for inclusion in the national strategy. This Plan addresses 15 areas identified by the CDC as the essential planning components. The local Plan was developed by the Health Department, guided by recommendations from the COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee (see below).
The COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan covers a variety of topics, including defining critical populations, recruiting and training providers on vaccine use, storage and handling requirements for the vaccine, models of vaccine distribution, data collection and reporting, public information, and monitoring COVID-19 vaccinations for safety and uptake. The COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan is an evolving document that will change over time, as we learn more about the vaccines and figure out the most equitable way to protect people.
Read the Executive Summary of Philadelphia’s COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan.
COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee
The Vaccine Advisory Committee (VAC) was established to advise the Health Department on planning distribution of COVID-19 vaccine. The VAC is comprised of local stakeholders representing healthcare, vulnerable populations, faith-based organizations, business sectors, insurers, and others affected by the pandemic. The VAC advises the City on prioritization strategies for vaccine distribution, addresses health equity issues, and guides communication and community engagement strategies to build trust and promote vaccine uptake.
Initial Vaccine Supply Expected to Be Limited
Given that vaccine availability is likely to be limited initially, Philadelphia is planning for a phased approach to COVID-19 vaccination. In Phase 1, vaccine administration will concentrate on populations at high-risk of acquiring infection, transmitting infection to vulnerable persons, or suffering severe consequences of infection. This may include healthcare workers, critical workforce staff, and elderly residents of long-term care facilities.
As the supply of vaccine increases in Phase 2, the Health Department will expand access to other priority groups such as moderate-risk essential workers and additional persons who might experience complications of infection. In Phase 3, COVID-19 vaccine supply will be sufficient for the entire population.
PDPH will create a broad vaccine administration network to achieve sustainable and equitable vaccine access across the city, including through private healthcare providers, pharmacies, clinics, hospitals, community service organizations, and mass vaccination events.
Healthcare Provider Information
Frequently Asked Questions
How will we know the vaccine is safe?
Having a safe and effective vaccine is a top priority in Philadelphia. Approving vaccines as safe, and making sure they work, is the responsibility of the FDA and CDC. The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and other groups look at information about a vaccine and make informed decisions about the risks and benefits of using it. The Philadelphia Department of Public Health is committed to making vaccine available only after we are confident that it is safe and effective.
Who will be able to get vaccinated?
Once a COVID-19 vaccine is approved, it will still take time before everyone can receive their vaccine. Everyone in the United States needs a COVID-19 vaccine, so it could take a long while before they are available to the public. Eventually, everyone in Philadelphia who wants a COVID-19 vaccine will be able to be vaccinated.
The Health Department is waiting to hear from CDC who should get the vaccine first, based on their level of risk. To help do this, the Health Department is working with the COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee to help make sure we are making decisions for how vaccine should be distributed fairly and strategically.
Do I need to be vaccinated if I previously had COVID-19?
We do not yet know whether the vaccine will be recommended for people who have previously had COVID-19.
Will COVID-19 vaccination be required in Philadelphia?
No. COVID-19 vaccination will not be mandatory in Philadelphia. If you have concerns about receiving the vaccine, please discuss them with your healthcare provider or contact the Health Department.
Will there be a cost for the vaccine?
The vaccine is being provided by the federal government and is free of charge to all US residents.
Your healthcare provider may charge your insurance company for an administrative fee, but they may not charge you anything for the vaccination. You do not need to pay a co-pay, a deductible, or balance billing to your provider. People who have no insurance may also seek vaccination without needing to pay.