The Community Connection
Vaccines soon open to all Pa. adults
The Pennsylvania Department of Health has accelerated its COVID-19 vaccination efforts.
Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam announced Wednesday that workers in four targeted industries are now eligible to schedule vaccination appointments.
Eligibility will continue to expand through April 19, when everyone age 16 and older will be eligible.
“We are very close to completing Phase 1A and have already used special initiatives to vaccinate teachers and child care workers in Phase 1B,” Beam said during a news media briefing Wednesday.
“As of April 5, we will be moving to Phase 1B in Pennsylvania,” she said. “One week later, on April 12, we will be moving to Phase 1C of our vaccination plan. On April 19, two weeks ahead of the president’s directive, … Pennsylvania will be prepared to open vaccine eligibility to all Pennsylvanians (age) 16 and older.”
A few weeks ago, President Joe Biden set a May 1 deadline
for all adults to be eligible to receive a vaccine. Biden then announced Monday that 90% of adults should be eligible to receive the vaccine by April 19.
Under the latest version of Pennsylvania’s vaccination plan, version eight, the state plans to meet both deadlines.
Supply is steady
Beam credits vaccine providers and an increased supply for allowing the state to expand vaccination efforts.
“The ability to move through these upcoming phases quickly is due to the commitment of local vaccine providers and also the estimates of vaccine we anticipate receiving both to the state and through the federal retail partners,” Beam said. “Because of the focused provider network that we created earlier this month, local providers now have better predictability into the supply so that they can schedule out rather than relying on slow moving waitlists.”
Beam said providers in the state have been averaging more than 83,000 shots per day. She added that providers are reporting an increase in appointment availability and have indicated they are ready to move to the next phase of vaccinations.
Beam expects the next phases will move quicker than Phase 1A due to the increased and consistent supply.
“We have really been able to be in a different playing field than we were in January,” she said. “We’ve been able to tell our providers you are going to get at least this floor of an amount of the vaccine week over week so you can rely on that. You can schedule out. Previously we were in a world where that predictability didn’t exist.”
The state is in Phase 1A, which includes health care personnel, residents and staff of long-term care facilities, anyone age 65 and older and anyone age 16 to 64 with one of numerous medical conditions.
Teachers and child care workers are also eligible to receive the vaccine through a targeted initiative. Anyone in a previous phase will still be eligible to schedule an appointment as eligibility expands to other phases.
“It is important to remember that eligibility does not guarantee an immediate vaccination appointment,” Beam said in a press release before the briefing. “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.”
The next phases
As of Wednesday, according to Beam, an additional estimated 190,000 to 250,000 Pennsylvanians are now eligible for the vaccine in the four targeted industries:
• 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.
The remaining Phase 1B population is estimated to be 700,000 to 1 million residents and includes:
• People in congregate settings not otherwise specified as long-term care facilities, and people receiving homeand community-based services.
• Correctional officers and other workers serving people in congregate care settings not included in Phase 1A.
• Food and agricultural workers.
• Postal Service workers. • Manufacturing workers. • Grocery store workers. • Education workers. • Clergy and other essential support for houses of worship.
• Public transit workers. • Individuals caring for children or adults in early childhood and adult day programs.
Phase 1C has an estimated population of 1.3 million to 1.7 million and includes workers in:
• Transportation and logistics.
• Water and wastewater. • Food service.
• Housing construction. • Finance, including bank tellers.
• Information technology. • Communications. • Energy, including nuclear reactors.
• Legal services. • Federal, state, county and local government workers, including county election workers, elected officials and members of the judiciary and their staff. • Media.
• Public safety.
• Public health workers. The final phase, Phase 2, begins April 19 when all residents 16 and older are eligible.
“The COVID-19 vaccine is safe, it is effective and we want each person who can receive it to do so as soon as possible,” Beam said. “Remember to continue to wear a mask, even if vaccinated, while out in public as we work to protect those who have not yet received the vaccine. We also ask Pennsylvanians to continue to socially distance and when out in public, make sure to wash your hands and take steps to protect one another.”
A map of vaccine providers, including contact information, is available on the state Department of Health’s website, https:// www.health.pa.gov/. People without internet access can contact the department’s hotline at 1-877-724-3258.