As of today, all adults in the U.S. are now eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, successfully meeting a deadline set by President Biden earlier this month.
“Everyone 16 and older in America is eligible for the shot today. Go and get ‘em, folks,” Biden said via the official @POTUS Twitter account today. The new nationwide eligibility rules come after more than a dozen states opened up eligibility for adults in the past few weeks.
Right now, there are three COVID-19 vaccines that have received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, including two that rely on mRNA technology (from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna). A third shot, developed by Johnson & Johnson, relies on an altered adenovirus to elicit an immune response in the body that can help protect you from the coronavirus. However, the use of the Johnson & Johnson shot is paused across the country right now while investigators from the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) look into a possible link between the shot and a rare type of blood clots.
These vaccines can significantly prevent symptomatic COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. There’s also mounting evidence that they can help prevent asymptomatic infections and reduce transmission of the virus as well. If enough people get vaccinated (and the vaccines do actually prevent transmission), the hope is that the country will achieve what’s known as herd immunity, meaning that so many people will be protected from the virus that even those who can’t or don’t want to get vaccinated will receive some protection as well.
The first people who were eligible to get the shots in most states were health care workers, other essential workers, and people in older age groups. Then eligibility opened up for people in slightly younger age brackets and those with certain underlying health conditions that put them at a higher risk for severe COVID-19 symptoms.
Now that eligibility has widened even further, the challenge in many areas will be actually getting an appointment for the shots. To start looking for a vaccine appointment, try checking with your state’s health department, local pharmacies, or your primary care provider. If you’re having trouble snagging a slot, know that there are Facebook groups full of volunteers out there offering their help in getting you scheduled. Once you have an appointment, be sure to know which documents your vaccination site requires you to bring and be prepared for a few days of side effects that might make it difficult for you to do your normal activities.
The fact that all adults are now eligible for the shots is a testament to just how much momentum the vaccination rollout gained over the past months and weeks. More than half of all adults in the country have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at this point, according to new CDC data. But with travel picking up and a few worrying coronavirus variants spreading widely in the U.S., it’s crucial for those adults who haven’t gotten vaccinated yet to consider doing so now that they are eligible.