Will you get a COVID-19 vaccine by May 1? Not exactly, experts say. Here's what Biden's deadline means for you

Korin Miller
·6 min read
Dena Langston, a Pre-K teacher at the Pittsburgh suburb's Homewood-Brushton YWCA, receives a COVID vaccination from Muhammad Cheema, a pharmacist with Giant Eagle supermarket chain, Thursday, March 11, 2021, at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. Giant Eagle Pharmacy partnered with the Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) to conduct a two-day COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Heinz Field. (Nate Guidry/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)
Dena Langston, a Pre-K teacher at the Pittsburgh suburb's Homewood-Brushton YWCA, receives a COVID vaccination from Muhammad Cheema, a pharmacist with Giant Eagle supermarket chain. On Thursday, President Biden ordered states to open up vaccinations to all adults as of May 1. (Nate Guidry/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)

President Joe Biden addressed the nation on Thursday night and offered up hope about a return to normalcy after the pandemic.

After urging Americans to “all do our part,” Biden said that, if all goes well, people will be able to celebrate the Fourth of July in a more normal setting. "After this long hard year, that will make this Independence Day something truly special, where we not only mark our independence as a nation but begin to mark our independence from this virus," he said. "Finding light in the darkness is a very American thing to do. In fact, it may be the most American thing we do."

One very notable aspect of Biden's speech was that he ordered states to open up vaccinations to all adults as of May 1. He also urged the use of other medical staff to vaccinate Americans, including veterinarians, dentists and paramedics. "I will not relent until I beat this virus, but the American people: I need you," Biden said. "I need every American to do their part."

The speech was powerful, and it got a lot of people talking. But it's also understandable that you might have questions about what, exactly, this all means for you. Here's what you need to know.

Will I be vaccinated by May 1?

Not necessarily. A fact sheet issued by the White House said that every adult in the U.S. will be eligible for vaccination no later than May 1. "The White House COVID-19 Response Team has concluded that our accelerated vaccination efforts will enable prioritized vaccinations to be far enough along by end of April that all eligibility restrictions for vaccinations can be lifted by May 1st," the fact sheet says.

"That means you should be able to schedule an appointment," Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, tells Yahoo Life. "It's more about opening appointments than actually getting people vaccinated by May 1."

Adalja says that, while you may be able to secure an appointment, it could be for weeks after the May 1 deadline. Still, he says, "this is in the realm of possibility based on vaccine production." Some states are already moving forward with lifting eligibility requirements. Alaska has made the vaccine available to all adults ages 16, and on Friday, Michigan announced that all residents 16 or older will be eligible for the COVID-19 on April 5.

Also worth noting: the administration plans to launch a federally-supported website and an 800 number to allow people to more easily find sites near them that have vaccines.

Who is included in the May 1 date?

In his speech, Biden said that adults 18 and up would be eligible for the vaccine. It's worth noting, though, that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is authorized for adults aged 16 and up, Dr. Timothy Murphy, senior associate dean for clinical and translational research at the University at Buffalo, tells Yahoo Life.

When can children expect vaccinations?

That's a little less clear. Currently, clinical trials are ongoing for older children, Dr. Adalja says. But when they'll be authorized for use is still to be determined.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Meet the Press in late February that teens aged 12 and up should expect to be vaccinated "sometime this fall. I'm not sure it'll exactly be on the first day that school opens, but pretty close to that." For children under 12, it’s "very likely" that they'll be able to get vaccinated at the "earliest the end of the year, and very likely the first quarter of 2022," he said.

Murphy doesn't anticipate any safety issues arising with the vaccine in children. "It's reasonable to be optimistic that they will be safe and effective in children," he says.

Is it OK for dentists, veterinarians, and paramedics to vaccinate people?

The administration issued an order to states to allow more people to vaccinate the public. Among the list are dentists, emergency medical technicians, midwives, optometrists, paramedics, physician assistants, podiatrists, respiratory therapists and veterinarians.

"It's not very difficult to do a vaccination," Adalja says, noting that he’s been advocating for this since the vaccine first became available. "It's a technical skill that health care professionals can do," he says. "Whether you’re injecting a needle into an arm, gum, or animal, it's the same skillset."

Murphy agrees, saying that it's "reasonable to take this route."

What could July 4 look like if this plan goes forward?

Biden specifically spoke about celebrating the holiday with "loved ones." Adalja says that it's "within the realm of possibility" to be able to celebrate as usual — with multiple households — especially if the majority of the people gathered are vaccinated.

Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can gather unmasked with other people who are fully vaccinated or with unvaccinated people from one household who are considered low-risk for serious forms of COVID-19.

Gathering together for the Fourth of July may depend on vaccination status, Dr. Richard Watkins, an infectious disease physician and professor of internal medicine at Northeast Ohio Medical University, tells Yahoo Life. "Remember, kids won't be vaccinated by then," he says.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, tells Yahoo Life that "if the people who are most subjected to serious disease are well-vaccinated, they can gather together with children." However, he says, "these gatherings will not be no risk, but they will be very low risk."

What about people who are still hesitant about the vaccine?

No one will be forced to get vaccinated, but experts urge everyone to at least consider it. "We're getting close to 100 million vaccines that have been administered," Murphy says. "We have learned that it is indeed safe."

Schaffner stresses that the vaccine is "remarkably safe and effective," adding that the vaccines "look to be as safe or even safer than any of the other vaccines which we usually receive."

Adalja agrees. "There's no reason to be hesitant about the vaccine," he says. "This is the way to get your life back."

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