Pennsylvania on Friday released an updated coronavirus vaccination plan that makes more people eligible for photos in the early stages of release.
Healthcare workers and residents of nursing homes remain at the front of the line, followed by people aged 75 and over and “key workers” such as police officers, grocery store employees and teachers.
As COVID-19 continues to rage in Pennsylvania, health officials have warned that the state still does not have enough doses of the two approved vaccines to inoculate the general public.
“I know it’s hard to ask, but we have to be patient,” Dr. Rachel Levine, secretary of state, said Friday. “It will be several months before this vaccine is available to everyone.”
To date, the federal government has given Pennsylvania more than 827,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. More than 235,000 photos were taken, although Levine said the actual number would certainly be higher, as reporting from hospitals and pharmacies lagged behind by one to three days.
Doctors, nurses and other health workers, as well as residents and staff of nursing homes and long-term care facilities – a group of about 1 million – first roll up their sleeves. Government officials have not proposed a timetable for when this initial phase of the vaccination campaign, which began last month, will end.
Then, as part of a state-revised vaccine plan for people aged 75 and older and key front-line workers, a huge and diverse group that includes the clergy; first responders; prison guards; school staff; and workers in food, manufacturing, postal, public transportation and grocery stores.
The eligibility will then be extended to people aged 65 to 74, those with serious health conditions and another huge batch of workers in industries ranging from banking to energy.
Representative Aaron Kaufer R-Luzerne said high-risk Pennsylvania should be included in the state’s list of priorities.
“I am absolutely horrified that the governor and Dr. Levin have shown so little care and low priority over residents who have high-risk medical conditions when they develop their vaccination plan against COVID-19,” Kaufer said in a news release.
Levine said the state’s vaccine plan follows the recommendations of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
At a media briefing on Friday, she predicted it could be late spring or summer before the state is ready to offer the vaccine to anyone who wants one.
“It will take time, but there is a future without COVID-19,” said its chief, Governor Tom Wolf.
The state said more than 10,000 new, confirmed cases of the virus on Friday – at most a few weeks – likely marking the start of a post-holiday jump, according to Levin. The state reports an average of about 7,500 new cases a day.
Geisinger, one of the state’s largest health systems, said it continues to see a high rate of infections and hospitalizations. The figures are “consistent with what you would expect during a full-fledged community release,” said Dr. Jaewon Ryu, CEO of Geisinger, in a separate briefing on Friday.
Geisinger said it makes more than 1,000 vaccines a day, inoculating about half of its workers, and expects to introduce initial doses to about 19,000 people by the end of next week.