Updated November 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.

We are following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Pennsylvania Department of Health on distribution.

As of November 2021, all Americans 5 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 people to receive the vaccine from UPMC. To schedule an appointment to receive the vaccine from UPMC, you can visit Vaccine.UPMC.com. You also can call 844-UPMCVAC (844-876-2822) between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., seven days a week.

Children 5 and older are eligible for vaccination. If your child is an existing Children’s Community Pediatrics patient and you wish to schedule an appointment for them to get the COVID-19 vaccine, you can schedule an appointment online or by calling a CCP location near you.

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 fully approved the Pfizer vaccine for Americans 16 and older and authorized it for children between the ages of 5 and 15. The Moderna and J&J vaccines are authorized for Americans 18 and older.

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

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How Will COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Work?

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?

As of November, all Americans 5 years and older are eligible for vaccination. For more information, visit the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s website.

UPMC has set up a registration for eligible Pennsylvanians to schedule a vaccine appointment with UPMC. To schedule your appointment, visit Vaccine.UPMC.com or call 844-876-2822 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., seven days a week.

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?

Additional/booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine

The CDC and FDA have authorized additional doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for people in certain at-risk groups.

People who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines are eligible for an additional dose if:

  • They are 12 or older (Pfizer) or 18 and older (Moderna) and immunocompromised.
  • They are 65 and older.
  • They are 18 and older with an underlying health condition.
  • They are 18 and older and live in a long-term care setting.
  • They are 18 and older and live or work in a setting that puts them at risk of COVID-19, including health care workers, first responders, and more.

People who are immunocompromised can get an additional dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine 28 days after their second dose. Anyone else eligible can get an additional dose of any of the three vaccines six months after their second dose.

Also, J&J vaccine recipients who are 18 and older are eligible for an additional dose of the vaccine two months after their first shot.

If you are eligible for an additional dose, you can schedule an appointment with UPMC by visiting Vaccine.UPMC.com or calling 844-876-2822 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., seven days a week.

Children and the COVID-19 vaccine

In October 2021, the FDA authorized the Pfizer vaccine for children between the ages of 5 and 11. Children over 12 were already eligible for the Pfizer vaccine.

Other vaccines may receive authorization for use in children in the coming months. Currently, only the Pfizer vaccine is authorized for use in people under the age of 18.

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.”

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.

“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 5 and older.

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.