PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Pharmacies across the country are receiving shipments of the updated COVID-19 vaccine, and starting Monday appointments were available at Walgreens locations nationwide.
"I'm getting the COVID vaccine today," said Ajeenah Amir of Northeast Philadelphia.
Some slots were already offered on a rolling basis as stores like CVS and Walgreens that received early inventory. Appointments at Rite Aid are available beginning on Friday.
"I've been hearing about more of my friends getting it, and just been watching the news and understanding that more cases are coming, and I work for a health system, and so it's something that's encouraged that we do," added Amir.
On the first day, Skippack Pharmacy was distributing the latest vaccine.
"I'm 70 years old and I don't want to take any chances," said Keith Gerhart of Bechtelsville, Pa.
"A lot of questions out there. Should we get it? Should we not get it? Are people going to come into the pharmacy to get the vaccine?" said pharmacy owner Mayank Amin.
Based on past turnout, the pharmacy ordered thousands of doses - Moderna and Pfizer.
But he says now that the public health emergency is over, he purchases the shots directly from the manufacturer, rather than receiving them from health departments.
Action News also spoke with several small pharmacy owners who are holding off on ordering, or are trying to order smaller amounts of the vaccine, due to concerns over demand and the high cost upfront.
The vaccine is largely expected to be available to the public at no cost; either through insurance or federal programs.
The CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older get an updated COVID vaccine to protect against potentially serious outcomes.
CDC data shows an increase in hospital patients with COVID-19 in our area.
From August to September, Pennsylvania hospitals saw an 89% increase in patients with COVID. New Jersey hospitals saw a 44% increase and Delaware saw a slight uptick.
This vaccine - approved by the FDA last week- targets a strain of the omicron variant that experts hope will give folks more immunity, even as the virus changes.
"That seems to be the case with this vaccine this fall," said John Wherry, PhD, Director of the Institute for Immunology and Immune Health at the University of Pennsylvania. "Pretty central to where the virus is and that means that if you induce immunity with that vaccine, you're going to have at least some coverage of a lot of the variants that may arise over the next 4 to 6 months."
Wherry says if you've had COVID recently, wait 4-6 months before getting this new shot.
"A lot of my friends have actually got COVID since the weather broke, so it's definitely going to come back, with a lot of other stuff," remarked Tre James of Northeast Philadelphia.
Walgreens is among the pharmacies contracted by the CDC to offer free COVID vaccinations to uninsured and underinsured adults through the Bridge Access Program.
Some haven't gotten the past vaccinations and won't get this one either.
"I don't plan on getting the vaccine too much. I didn't get the first couple ones, I just don't think it's needed. I don't think COVID is a big deal," said Eric Hines of Northeast Philadelphia.
Some people were able to schedule appointments for Monday but saw cancellations when the shipments didn't arrive. Be sure to check with your local pharmacy about availability.