All Pennsylvanians will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine by April 19

PITTSBURGH — Pennsylvania is accelerating its COVID-19 vaccine rollout, and all Pennsylvanians will be eligible to schedule appointments beginning April 19.

On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Department of Health and COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force announced the start of a special initiative to vaccinate targeted industry workers, along with the accelerated timetable for people in Phases 1B, 1C and 2.

“It is important to remember that eligibility does not guarantee an immediate vaccination appointment,” Pennsylvania’s Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam said. “Vaccine providers are ready and eager to get a shot in the arm of every person who wants one while we continue to aggressively advocate for more vaccine.”

Pennsylvania will move forward with the following accelerated phased rollout:

Starting March 31

Workers in the four targeted industries that Gov. Tom Wolf and the Task Force announced on March 12:

  • Law enforcement, which includes police, sheriffs and deputies, constables, corrections officers and staff, as well as probation and parole staff.
  • Firefighters, including career and volunteer firefighters.
  • Grocery Store workers, including all workers in supermarkets and grocery stores.
  • Food and Agriculture workers, including all food processing company employees, including meat, poultry, and dairy processing, fresh fruit and vegetable packing operations, food manufacturing, all farmworkers, farm operators, and farm managers, including at urban agriculture operations.

Starting April 5

All residents in Phase 1B will be eligible to start scheduling vaccination appointments.

Starting April 12

All residents in Phase 1C will be eligible to start scheduling vaccination appointments.

Starting April 19

All residents will be eligible to start scheduling vaccination appointments.

What led to the change

The updated timeline for vaccinations in Pennsylvania falls in line with President Joe Biden’s goal of making COVID-19 shots accessible to 90% of adults in the United States by April 19. Beyond that, Biden’s goal is to make all adults eligible for the vaccine by May 1.

>>STORY: 90% of US adults will be eligible for vaccination by April 19, Biden says

“Pennsylvania’s vaccine providers have dramatically stepped up the pace of vaccinations to an average of 83,000 per day, moving the Keystone State higher and higher in the rankings with other states. As we complete Phase 1A vaccinations, it’s time to open eligibility to more Pennsylvanians so providers can continue to fill appointments and efficiently, effectively and equitably vaccinate more people every day,” Beam said.

COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force members said meeting Biden’s goal is possible because the federal government is drastically increasing vaccine supply over the next several weeks.

Can local hospitals handle the crush?

“We could do four times the number of vaccinations we do each week in a blink. And we could do even more than that with a little preparation,” said UPMC senior medical director Dr. Don Yealy.

Yealy said it depends on how much vaccine and how much notice the state can give UPCM in terms of if they’re prepared for this expansion. UPMC officials also said they will be holding smaller neighborhood clinics in areas with barriers to health resources.

“We are working on some scheduling to be released this week. We will have those appointments available until the end of May, and the public should look out for more appointments coming this week,” said Dr. Imran Qadeer.

At a clinic Wednesday, AHN officials said they were planning to give out more than 5,000 first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. They said their clinics may be getting even larger with this increase in eligibility.

“We will have more events in the coming weeks and are also partnering with the county to hold J & J vaccine clinics,” Qadeer said.