Updated June 18, 2021

UPMC is working through the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to our communities. To date, we have delivered hundreds of thousands of vaccine doses.

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

We are following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Pennsylvania Department of Health on distribution. That includes vaccinating people at high risk of getting COVID-19 or developing complications.

As of May 10, 2021, all Pennsylvanians age 12 and older are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. For more information, visit the Pennsylvania Department of Health website.

UPMC has set up a registration for eligible Pennsylvanians to receive the vaccine from UPMC. To schedule an appointment to receive the vaccine from UPMC, you can visit Vaccine.UPMC.com.

What Is the Status of the COVID-19 Vaccine?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued emergency use authorization (EUA) to three COVID-19 vaccines:

  • The first COVID-19 vaccine, produced by Pfizer-BioNTech, received an EUA on Dec. 11, 2020.
  • A COVID-19 vaccine produced by Moderna received an EUA on Dec. 18.
  • A third vaccine, developed by Johnson & Johnson/Janssen, received an EUA on Feb. 27, 2021.

The distribution of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines began in December 2020. The distribution of the J&J vaccine began in March 2021.

The FDA has authorized the Pfizer vaccine for Americans 12 and older. The Moderna and J&J vaccines are authorized for Americans 18 and older.

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?

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 J&J vaccine is a single-dose vaccine.

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?

Pennsylvania is distributing the vaccine in phases. As of May 10, 2021, all Pennsylvanians 12 years and older are eligible for vaccination. For more information, visit the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s website.

UPMC hospitals, doctors’ offices, and clinics can’t currently provide the vaccine to the general public. However, UPMC has set up a registration for eligible Pennsylvanians to schedule a vaccine appointment with UPMC. To schedule your appointment, visit Vaccine.UPMC.com.

Current COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution:

As of May 10, 2021, all Pennsylvanians 12 and older are eligible to receive the vaccine.

UPMC is committed to providing vaccination in 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.

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?

On May 10, 2021, the FDA authorized the Pfizer vaccine for children age 12-15. Other vaccines may receive authorization for use in children in the coming months.

UPMC will continue to follow federal and state guidance for vaccine eligibility.

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.

To date, we have distributed hundreds of thousands of vaccine doses in our communities. We look forward to continuing our vaccination efforts in the coming months.

“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.

Is the COVID-19 Vaccine Safe?

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

The Pfizer, Moderna, and J&J vaccines showed great promise in the clinical trials. All three exceeded FDA requirements for safety and effectiveness before receiving EUA.

“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.

On April 23, 2021, the CDC and FDA lifted a temporary pause on the nationwide distribution of the J&J vaccine. Federal health officials paused the distribution out of caution on April 13 as they investigated reports of people who developed rare, serious blood clots after receiving the J&J vaccine.

After their investigation, the CDC and FDA determined the risk of blood clots from the J&J vaccine is extremely low. The vaccine’s benefits in preventing COVID-19 are extremely high, outweighing the risks in people 18 and older. The vaccine is safe and effective in preventing COVID-19.

If you or a loved one received the J&J vaccine, do not panic. Call your doctor if you experience symptoms related to blood clots, such as severe headaches, chest pain, persistent abdominal pain, arm or leg swelling, and/or shortness of breath. You DO NOT need to take a medicine like aspirin to prevent blood clots.

These adverse effects have not been linked to the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines.

“Most people, regardless of the vaccine they receive, should not expect severe side effects like this,” says Donald Yealy, MD, chief medical officer, UPMC. “It’s exceptionally rare.”

The CDC is monitoring reports of the heart conditions myocarditis and pericarditis in people who received the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, especially adolescents and young adults.

According to the CDC, the reported cases were rare and happened mostly in male adolescents and young adults 16 and older. Symptoms usually presented within days of vaccination, and patients typically responded well to rest and medications.

The CDC continues to recommend vaccination for Americans 12 and older.

“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.”

Sources

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

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 700 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations in central and western Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals.