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Over 50% of adults in the U.S. have had at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose. FG Trade/Getty Images
  • After months of shortages, there appears to be enough vaccine doses to meet demand in many states.
  • Currently, everyone over age 16 is eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States.
  • Experts say the best vaccine option is the one you can get first.

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In the months since emergency use authorizations (EUA) were issued for COVID-19 vaccines, there’s been a scramble by everyone eligible to get the potentially lifesaving jab.

But limited drug supply, compounded by restricted eligibility in many parts of the United States, meant that many people couldn’t get the vaccine, even as case numbers surged in some states.

But there’s good news: Increased vaccine supplies, and significantly expanded eligibility guidelines, mean now is the best time to schedule a vaccine appointment to be protected against COVID-19.

According to Dr. K.C. Rondello, university epidemiologist and special adviser to the Office of University Health and Wellness at Adelphi University, for most of the vaccine effort there weren’t nearly enough vaccine doses available for those who wanted them.

“As a greater proportion of the population gets vaccinated, fewer individuals are in need of vaccination. Simply put, there are less people vying for the available appointment slots,” Rondello told Healthline.

He explained that with each passing day, vaccine coverage (the percentage of the population fully vaccinated) improves, and accordingly the percentage of the population that is unvaccinated becomes smaller.

Rondello explained that as the vaccine initiative has advanced, drugmakers have substantially expanded production capacity to ramp up vaccine availability.

“Back in February, both Pfizer and Moderna pledged to provide a massive vaccine surge, and by and large they are delivering,” he said. “That has enabled them to make millions more doses available each week, resulting in a better match between supply and demand.”

“In Los Angeles it’s getting a lot easier to find appointments for COVID-19 vaccines now,” said Dr. Richard Seidman, chief medical officer at L.A. Care Health Plan, the largest publicly operated health plan in the country.

He emphasized that we seem to have reached the point where supply has increased enough to meet, and potentially exceed, demand. And now some vaccine providers are starting to offer walk-up access with no appointment required.

But Seidman cautioned that despite the tremendous progress made, we still have a long way to go to get 80 percent or more of the population immunized.

“The sooner we get there, the sooner we can get back to living more normal lives, reduce the risk of emerging variants, and prevent another potentially devastating wave of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths” he continued.

Seidman also said there’s no need to prepare in any way before receiving the vaccine, but be aware that your body’s response to it might mean planning a flexible schedule.

“Be aware of the potential side effects and try to give yourself the flexibility you might need if you need some time to rest until you feel better,” he said.

“Depending on where you receive the vaccine, you may or may not be given a choice of options,” said Dr. Jennifer Tong, associate chief medical officer at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in California.

She pointed out that because all authorized vaccines are safe and effective, it’s important to get vaccinated with the first one offered to you to ensure that you’re protected as soon as possible.​

However, according to Tong, eligible teenagers are limited to only one vaccine option at this time.

“Those aged 16 and 17 will need to select a location where Pfizer is offered since only Pfizer is approved for use in 16- and 17-year-olds,” she said.

She emphasized that vaccine appointments are currently available in California, with new appointments added daily based on available vaccine supplies.

“The County of Santa Clara Health System is now scheduling first dose appointments up to 1 week in advance,” she said. “The county’s website is regularly updated in five languages with the latest information about vaccines and current links for scheduling appointments.”

As of April 23, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has lifted the pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Dr. Teresa Murray Amato, director of emergency medicine at Long Island Jewish Forest Hills in Queens, New York, said this creates additional vaccine supply.

“It may be difficult to choose which vaccine you can receive,” she said. “As the supply increases the ability to choose may increase.”

Amato explained there are several ways to make your vaccine appointment.

“You can check your state department of health website, you can contact your local pharmacies, or reach out to your primary doctor,” she said. “As the vaccine supply increases more sites will accommodate walk-ins.”

Amato said it’s best to talk with your primary care doctor if you have any concerns about the vaccine, and remember that most sites will require at least a 15-minute observation period after you’re vaccinated.

“Operating a vaccine administration site is not an easy task,” Rondello said. “There are a myriad of logistical, safety, administrative, clinical, and other concerns that must be managed.”

He explained that in the early days of the vaccine effort, there were few sites that had much experience organizing a vaccine dispensing location.

But as these locations gained greater and greater experience, they learned how to be more organized, consistent, and efficient, allowing for a more effective use of resources and a larger number of people vaccinated each day.

“Additionally, we have seen the establishment of more and more mass vaccination sites that have the capacity for enormous throughput,” Rondello said. “These locations can accommodate great numbers of vaccinated individuals in any given day, sometimes without them even leaving their cars.”

While the early days of the COVID-19 vaccine demand vastly outstripped supply, that’s quickly changing as an increasing number of vaccine options has made it much easier to get an appointment.

Experts say that as the vaccine initiative progressed, drug manufacturers ramped up production to meet demand, and being vaccinated is key to getting back to normal.

They also say while it might be difficult to choose which vaccine you’re given, since all options are found safe and effective, the best vaccine choice is any one that you can get now.