COVID vaccine arrives in Pa., mitigation still needed, Levine says

    Pa. Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine briefs journalists on Saturday 4/18/20 (Screen Capture)

    Ten months and a day after Gov. Tom Wolf initially closed schools to reduce the spread of COVID-19, hospitals across the commonwealth have begun administering vaccines to healthcare workers. 

    On a call with reporters Monday, state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine called the vaccine’s arrival in Pennsylvania “tremendously exciting.”

    “Vaccines are being administered in Pennsylvania as we speak,” Levine said, adding that the state’s allotment of 97,500 Pfizer vaccines has been distributed to 87 hospitals statewide for healthcare workers. 

    While the vaccines rollout is good news, Levine said, It isn’t a cure-all. 

    ”It could be months” before there are enough vaccines to immunize the public, Levine said.

    Levine asked Pennsylvanians to continue social distancing and other mitigation efforts to prevent the spread of the virus, noting that the state’s hospitals and healthcare systems have been “significantly challenged” by the virus. 

    “Our healthcare workers are being stretched to the limit,” both mentally and physically, Levine said. 

    The Department of Health reported 18,646 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend, bringing the statewide total to 499,764. 

    More than 5,000 individuals are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, according to DOH data. Of those, 1,227 are in the intensive care unit.

    The department also confirmed 330 new deaths over the weekend, bringing the total number of Pennsylvanians who have died as a result of COVID-19 to 12,565. 

    While the vaccine is not available to the general public yet, Levine asked that Pennsylvanians “strongly consider” getting the vaccine when it becomes available. She said that more federal funds are needed for outreach and education efforts. 

    The department confirmed that it has no plan to make the vaccine mandatory.

    Levine said that she expects shipments of the Moderna vaccine to begin next week. 

    She also clarified that the doses received this week by hospitals will not have to be rationed for the second, booster shot, noting that Operation Warp Speed, the federal government’s vaccine program, will handle the distribution of second doses in the next shipment of vaccines.

    Cassie Miller
    A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry. Miller has an extensive background in magazine writing, editing and design. She is a graduate of Penn State University where she served as the campus newspaper’s photo editor. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in professional journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In addition to her role at the Capital-Star, Miller enjoys working on her independent zines, Dead Air and Infrared.