National Guard gets OK to join Pa. vaccine efforts under new law

    Gov. Tom Wolf speaks at an event with Pennsylvania Nationals Guard personnel on Nov. 22, 2019. (The Office of Governor Tom Wolf)

    Pennsylvania’s National Guard can start getting involved in the distribution of vaccines and inoculation of Pennsylvanians amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill Wednesday authorizing the Guard and the state Department of Health to cooperate on a plan for the “community distribution and administration” of vaccines across the commonwealth.

    In a statement, Wolf said the bill will “further expedite getting vaccines to Pennsylvanians across the state.”

    Sponsored by Rep. Tim O’Neal, R-Washington and a member of Wolf’s legislative vaccine task force, the bill passed the House and Senate unanimously.

    The bill’s passage comes as vaccine shipments to Pennsylvania increase, including 124,000 doses of the newly approved Johnson & Johnson single dose vaccine.

    As of Wednesday, more than 24,000 people in Pennsylvania have died from the virus.