When can YOU get the vaccine? It depends on your health, occupation and where you live

A lot of factors play into the answer, and it depends on each person's health, what they do for a living and where they live.

States will handle immunization campaigns differently, experts say. Some campaigns may be smoother than others, but if there is one piece of advice to keep in mind, it's this: Keep taking measures to protect yourself and your family until you're inoculated.

That means continuing to wear masks, socially distance, avoid large gatherings and regularly wash your hands. 

"People just need to be patient," said Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers. "They need to be vigilant and protect themselves from the virus."

As for when Americans can get back to in-person socializing, "I would leave that to Dr. (Anthony) Fauci," she said, referring to the nation's top infectious disease expert and President-elect Joe Biden's incoming chief medical adviser.

You have more questions; here are more answers:

Who is getting vaccinated first?

As has been widely reported, health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities are first in line, followed by adults ages 75 and older and frontline essential workers such as first responders.

The next phase will be adults between 65 and 75, those between 16 and 64 with high-risk medical conditions and "other essential workers," according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. 

The CDC accepted the ACIP recommended allocation phases Tuesday. To be clear, the CDC guidelines are only that. States wield a good deal of authority in how the vaccines are handled, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday he will issue an executive order to ensure senior citizens (65 and older) are the first members of the general public to be vaccinated.

Who is an essential worker?

The ACIP defines frontline essential workers as anyone employed in "sectors essential to the functioning of society (who) are at substantially higher risk of exposure" to the coronavirus. Besides first responders, that includes those working in education and child care, food and agriculture, manufacturing, corrections, the US Postal Service, public transit and grocery stores. There are roughly 30 million people in this category. 

Other essential workers, according to ACIP, are people working in transportation, logistics, food service, construction, housing, finance, information technology, communications, energy, sanitation, media, law, public health and the water/wastewater industries. The category encompasses about 57 million Americans.

When will the general public get the vaccine?

This is a moving target that will be dictated by numerous variables. Dr. Vivek Murthy, Biden's nominee for surgeon general, said he believes it may take until late spring to finish vaccinating high-risk populations, if all goes according to plan. That means mid-summer may be a "realistic" timeline for the general public to begin vaccinations, he told NBC.

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