How UPMC Will Distribute the COVID-19 Vaccine

Updated Feb. 23, 2021

UPMC is working through the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to employees and community members.

UPMC is coordinating internally and with state and federal health officials about how we distribute vaccines in the communities we serve.

The supply of vaccines is limited in Pennsylvania and across the nation. We are working with state officials to receive more supply.

With our current limited supply of vaccines, we are vaccinating people in high-risk groups for COVID-19 complications. As we receive more supply, we look forward to expanding our efforts.

UPMC has set up a registration for people who are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine under Pennsylvania’s Phase 1a. To sign up for the registry, you can visit

Although vaccine supply remains limited, signing up for the registry will allow us to contact you to schedule an appointment when vaccine is available.

Please note that at this time, we are asking only people who are eligible under Pennsylvania’s Phase 1a to register. To see if you qualify, visit the Pennsylvania Department of Health website.

What Is the Status of the COVID-19 Vaccine?

The first COVID-19 vaccine, produced by Pfizer/BioNTech, received an emergency use authorization (EUA) on Dec. 11 from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A COVID-19 vaccine produced by Moderna received an EUA on Dec. 18.

The distribution of both vaccines in the United States began in December 2020.

Other potential vaccine candidates could seek FDA approval for emergency use at a later date.

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How Will COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Work?

The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines received emergency use authorization in December 2020. However, it will take several months for enough doses of the vaccine to be available for all who need it.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended the first doses go to health care workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses, distributed weeks apart.

The CDC estimates between 70% and 90% of the U.S. population would need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to reach herd immunity.

“The vaccines are going to come out in multiple forms from multiple companies, but there are 300-plus-million people in the United States who will likely need a dose of vaccine,” says Andrew Nowalk, MD, clinical director, Division of Infectious Diseases, UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. So we’re going to have to be patient as the vaccines are rolled out and as the doses start to flow out.”

When Will the Vaccine Be Available to the Public?

There are not yet enough doses of vaccine to cover the millions of people who need them nationwide. Vaccine distribution will happen in phases.

Pennsylvania is currently in Phase 1a of vaccine distribution. For information about who is eligible, visit the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s website.

UPMC hospitals, doctors’ offices, and clinics can’t currently provide the vaccine to the general public.

Current COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution:

Early vaccine supplies are limited, and distribution is happening in phases.

  • We are now offering the vaccine to our health care workers — those who have worked tirelessly since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to keep our communities healthy.
  • We are also offering vaccination to residents and staff of our long-term care facilities.
  • We also are vaccinating frontline health care workers not associated with UPMC or another hospital or health system. This includes dentists, home health care workers, mental health professionals, and many more.
  • Those over age 65 or those between the ages 16-64 with certain underlying medical conditions are a part of Phase 1a. Due to limited early supply, we are now issuing invitations to select individuals who meet those criteria. We are focusing on communities that have been severely affected by the pandemic and where there is limited access to medical care. We also are focused on providing vaccinations to communities with limited access to technology like smartphones or computers.
  • UPMC has set up a registration process for people who meet the Pennsylvania Phase 1a criteria. This will allow us to contact you when the vaccine is available. Please visit to register.
    • Please note: At this time, only people eligible for the vaccine under Pennsylvania Phase 1a should sign up.

We look forward to expanding COVID-19 vaccination to the general public as supplies become available in the coming weeks and months. We will follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Please check back for more information.

What’s Next for Vaccine Distribution?

  • Future phases of vaccine distribution will expand to essential workers, then to the general population. To see who is eligible in which phase, visit the Pennsylvania Department of Health website.
  • We are hopeful to have widespread distribution of the vaccine to community members in spring 2021.

How Will Vaccine Distribution Work at UPMC?

UPMC is working with federal and state officials on when, how, and to whom vaccines will be distributed.

Our current supply of vaccines is limited, but we are working with state officials to get more. With our current supply, we are vaccinating people at high risk for COVID-19 infection and complications.

We look forward to expanding our vaccination efforts as more supply is available.

“Our annual flu vaccination efforts have helped us put the infrastructure in place for mass vaccination events,” says Graham Snyder, MD, medical director, Infection Prevention and Hospital Epidemiology.

“We are used to navigating the varying transportation and storage requirements, handling protocols, and distribution plans that come along with all types of vaccines.”

UPMC had practice in the fall of 2020 with widespread, rapid vaccine distribution. Through “Operation One Shot,” it successfully delivered the influenza vaccine to over 70% of UPMC staff at participating hospitals in a matter of days.

Will the COVID-19 Vaccine Be Safe?

Vaccines go through extensive clinical trials to determine safety and effectiveness.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines showed great promise in the clinical trials, Dr. Nowalk says.

“All of the information we have is that these vaccines are safe, that they work even better than we thought they would, and that they will be the thing that frees us from the COVID epidemic in the end,” Dr. Nowalk says.

UPMC is ready to deliver the vaccine as it becomes available.

“The coronavirus vaccine landscape is changing rapidly, but we are preparing to the best of our abilities with the information we have,” Dr. Snyder says. “We look forward to playing a role in protecting our health care workers and the communities we serve when vaccines become available.”


Thomas Curwen, Los Angeles Times, Two Vaccines Might Get Emergency Approval This Month. Here's What You Need to Know. Link

Lena H. Sun and Isaac Stanley-Becker, Washington Post, Health Care workers and Nursing Home Residents Should Be the First to Get Coronavirus Vaccines, CDC Advisory Group Says. Link

About UPMC

A $21 billion health care provider and insurer, Pittsburgh-based UPMC is inventing new models of patient-centered, cost-effective, accountable care. The largest nongovernmental employer in Pennsylvania, UPMC integrates more than 90,000 employees, 40 hospitals, 700 doctors’ offices and outpatient sites, and a 3.8 million-member Insurance Services Division, the largest medical insurer in western Pennsylvania. In the most recent fiscal year, UPMC contributed $1.4 billion in benefits to its communities, including more care to the region’s most vulnerable citizens than any other health care institution, and paid more than $500 million in federal, state, and local taxes. Working in close collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, UPMC shares its clinical, managerial, and technological skills worldwide through its innovation and commercialization arm, UPMC Enterprises, and through UPMC International. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside on its annual Honor Roll of America’s Best Hospitals and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. For more information, go to