HARRISBURG — State leaders are hoping 2021 will be the year of the vaccine and there’s confidence the new year is leading to new momentum.
In a virtual news conference on Monday, Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine provided the first details of what the vaccine process for the general public could look like.
Right now, the commonwealth is in the early stages of phase one of its vaccine roll out, focusing on healthcare workers and nursing homes.
But, potentially as soon as the spring, that list will expand to the general public.
Levine said planning for that level of distribution is still in the works.
“As we move on from 1A to 1B and 1C, we’re going to need to start mass vaccination clinics. We’re going to need to contract with healthcare workers to actually do that,” Levine said.
The latest $900 billion COVID-19 stimulus package included several billion dollars to help states get the vaccines to the general public.
Levine said those dollars will be critical moving forward.
This week alone, Pennsylvania will receive more than 166,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and another 80,000 doses of Moderna’s.
Around one-third of those are second doses for people who already received the vaccine.
Levine emphasized this will continue to be a time-consuming process, but they are working to get vaccines to as many Pennsylvanians as possible.
“We know it is hard to ask people to be patient as we take on this unprecedented task. But patience is what we need.”
The process of vaccinating healthcare workers, seniors and eventually the general public will need to be repeated millions of times in Pennsylvania before the COVID-19 pandemic can become a thing of the past.
The problem now is it’s happening slower than many expected.
“I really think some of the estimates from the federal government, especially during the holidays, were higher than they should have been,” said Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine.
Initially, federal officials predicted 20 million Americans would be vaccinated by the end of December.
But the lag also is appearing locally.
According to the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker, Pennsylvania has received 489,850 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
155,983 doses have been administered, less than one-third.
“I wouldn’t say we’re far behind,” said Levine during a virtual news conference Monday.
The first phase of the state’s vaccine roll out focusing on healthcare workers and nursing home residents began in mid-December which Levine said is “just ramping up”.
But those responsible for putting vaccines in arms have noticed a delay.
So far, UPMC has vaccinated 25,000 healthcare workers across its healthcare system.
But Senior Medical Director Dr. Don Yealy said there were supply issues early on.
“I wish we had more and more sooner,” Yealy said. “But I see a growing capability and much learning on how to do this even more effectively.”