Pa. debuts COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan

    Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine briefs reporters on Monday, 10/26/20 (screen capture)

    A COVID-19 vaccine could be available in the next month, the state’s top health official said Thursday. 

    Speaking to journalists on Thursday, state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said that a vaccine will not immediately end the pandemic, adding “We don’t know when the supply will meet the demand.”

    The state will distribute the vaccine in three phases, Levine said. First, to such critical populations as emergency responders, health care workers and other essential personnel. It will go second to vulnerable populations with health conditions, and then, finally to the general population.

    The news of a potential vaccine comes as the Department of Health confirmed a new daily record of 7,126 COVID-19 cases and 116 new deaths in Pennsylvania on Thursday, bringing the statewide total to 288,978 positive cases and 9,581 deaths. 

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    Pennsylvania’s vaccine distribution plan is now available on the Department of Health website, as state’s eagerly await the approval of promising COVID-19 vaccines from the United States Food and Drug Administration. 

    Six drug manufacturers in the United States are currently working on vaccines to combat COVID-19. 

    “Never before has it been a simultaneous effort,” Levine said Thursday, adding that all of the drug manufacturers are working to develop a vaccine at the same time with the sponsorship of the federal government. 

    While Levine said the federal government has been working quickly to get a vaccine out, she noted “not too quickly.”

    Levine said that Pfizer and Moderna are close to finishing phase three trials. Once trials are complete, the companies will apply for emergency use authorization from the FDA.

    Once a vaccine is approved and has emergency use authorization, the Centers for Disease Control will review and provide recommendations and work to distribute the vaccines. 

    She said that the state faces “significant” logistical challenges to distribute the vaccine, calling on the federal government and CDC for funding to aid in distribution, administration and communication of the vaccine. 

    In the meantime, Levine said, “It’s critical that all Pennsylvanians continue to follow mitigation efforts.”

    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.