The good news is that the long-awaited COVID-19 vaccines are being produced and distributed. However, rather than breathing a collective sigh of relief, many of us are feeling confused about the distribution and level of protection that the vaccines offer. Following are answers to five questions that may be on your mind.
1. Will my Medicare benefits cover the cost?
Part B Medicare benefits cover the full cost of the vaccine. Beware of scams. The official Medicare website states that “Medicare covers the vaccine at no cost to you, so if anyone asks you to share your Medicare Number or pay for access to the vaccine, you can bet it’s a scam.”
2. Will the vaccine produce immunity?
While experts are still learning about the long-lasting benefits, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that the “COVID-19 vaccination will help protect you by creating an antibody (immune system) response.” The CDC advises that the best way to protect yourself is by continuing to wear a mask, practice social distancing and wash your hands even after you have been vaccinated.
3. Are the vaccines approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA)?
The vaccines are being distributed without full FDA approval under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). This is a measure invoked during an emergency when other options are not available for timely release of approved medical products. As part of the EUA process, the FDA expedites drug evaluations based on available evidence to understand the benefits and risks. Before a drug can be approved for emergency use, known and potential benefits must outweigh known and potential risks.
4. Who is eligible for the vaccine?
The CDC recommends phased-in vaccinations in the following order of priority, though there may be an overlap:
- Health care workers and people who live in a long-term care facility
- Frontline essential employees and seniors 75 years old and older
- Seniors 65 through 74 years old, people between the ages of 16 and 64 years old who have underlying medical conditions, and other essential workers
State governments are allowed to establish vaccination schedules that vary from these guidelines. To confirm your eligibility, check your state government public health website.
5. Who is considered an essential worker?
Frontline essential workers include:
- Police officers and corrections officers
- Food and agricultural workers
- Postal service and public transit employees
- Manufacturing employees
- Grocery store staff
- Educational workers like teachers as well as day care and support staff
“Other essential workers” are those that work in the following industries:
- Transportation and logistics
- Food service
- Housing construction and finance
- Information technology (IT)
- Public safety
- Public health
Information related to the coronavirus and COVID-19 vaccines is dispersed across the media spectrum. The best way to filter opinion and conjecture from verified data is to do your own research. Credible resources include the CDC at cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/index.html and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) at hhs.gov/coronavirus/covid-19-vaccines/distribution/index.html.
The CDC site includes a drop down list where you can select your state to find local information. For information on Medicare benefits related to the coronavirus, browse medicare.gov/coverage/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19-vaccine.