Pennsylvania — The Pennsylvania Department of Health has expanded the availability of the first phase of the COVID-19 vaccine to include people who are over age 65 and anyone over the age of 16 with serious health conditions.
The changes to the 1A vaccine group is in alignment with the latest CDC recommendations.
The Phase 1A distribution also includes health care workers and resident of long-term care facilities.
The change is expected to put a massive strain on counties across the state, some of whom are still waiting for doses. Nearly 60,000 medical workers in Allegheny County are still waiting for the vaccine.
Allegheny Health Network will begin vaccinating people 75 and older and recent cancer patients, but not to the level announced by the state. The Allegheny County Department of Health and director Dr. Debra Bogen echoed that, saying in part that people under the original Phase 1A would be prioritized:
“Moving those who are most vulnerable in our community up in priority is a step for which I advocated and support. We should be doing everything we can to reach those who are most at-risk in our community.
“Unfortunately, the Health Department’s supply of vaccine – and the supply of vaccine coming into the county to all providers - is still extremely limited and unknown from week to week. For the past few weeks, fewer than 20,000 doses of vaccine per week were delivered to health care providers, organizations and pharmacies in the county, not including doses that went to the Federal Pharmacy Partnership to vaccinate in long-term care facilities. Until vaccine supply increases significantly, the Health Department strongly encourages organizations to – and supports those which have already indicated that they will – prioritize vaccinating those most at-risk for severe COVID-19 disease.
“Accordingly, the department will continue to prioritize those in the original Phase 1A group for the time being. As noted in this morning’s vaccine update, there are still many organizations representing thousands of employees that have contacted the county and are still waiting for the vaccine. The department will continue to coordinate to provide vaccinations at its Monroeville site to meet that need. Healthcare workers eligible for Phase 1A vaccinations will receive a registration link from the county and can use that link to schedule a vaccine appointment. This link should not be shared outside the intended recipients. Anyone booking an appointment at the Monroeville site who is not authorized to do so will be turned away. Anyone without an appointment will also be turned away.
“In the coming weeks, the Health Department will announce its revised plans for an expanded vaccine rollout. These plans will prioritize reaching those residents 75 and older and those 65 and older with specific health conditions through large vaccination clinics, mobile clinics and pop-up events.”
“We will be looking more at mass vaccination clinics when we have additional vaccines to be dedicated to that,” Deputy Health Secretary Cindy Findley said.
The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency will be helping set up mass vaccination clinics, but there is no time frame on when that would happen. President-elect Joe Biden said he wants to have 100 million doses available by his first 100 days in office.
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