Wolf, Levine roll out updated Pa. vaccine plan

    (Image via UPMC/Pittsburgh City Paper)

    With the first phase of COVID-19 vaccinations underway statewide, the Wolf administration announced Friday it had updated its tiered vaccination plan to include a broader group of people and new constituencies.

    The state rolled out its first plan last November and the version debuted Friday is the fourth iteration of the state’s vaccine regime. The updates reflect new recommendations by officials at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Pennsylvania hospitals started vaccinating healthcare workers in December. The recently state launched a partnership with Walgreens and CVS pharmacies to administer injections on-site for nursing home residents and staff, the Capital-Star previously reported.

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    The updated “Phase 1A” of the plan has “further defined to identify specific health care providers,” state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said during a Friday briefing with Gov. Tom Wolf.

    The state’s “Phase 1B” now includes “a significantly larger group of people that includes people age 75 and older, those with significant health issues and essential workers,” Levine continued. “This update also creates a Phase 1C, which is those people age 65-74 and people with high-risk conditions such as cancer, COPD, hearth conditions and pregnant women, and those essential workers not included in Phase 1A or B.”

    While state officials are doing everything can to make sure the vaccine is being distributed efficiently, the state mostly remains at the mercy of the federal government, Wolf noted.

    “That’s just the reality. My administration doesn’t control how much vaccine we get or when we get it. We’re doing everything we possibly can to make sure this process is as smooth and fair as it can possibly be,” Wolf said.

    The state is “working to ensure that everyone who wants access to the COVID-19 vaccine gets it,” Levine added. ” … It will take several months before there is vaccine available to everyone. There are many variables that will influence that.”

    The most up-to-date vaccine information, which includes the fourth iteration of the plan, can be found on the vaccine section of the state Health Department’s website, the administration said in a statement.

    On Friday, the Health Department announced that it had confirmed 10,178 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 703,265 since the start of the pandemic. The agency also announced 215 new deaths, for a total of 17,394, fatalities.

    Speaking to journalists Friday, officials ascribed the increase to an expected post-holiday bump.

    “We tend to follow the pattern of the rest of the country,” Wolf said. “We’ll be watching those numbers very carefully.”

    John L. Micek
    A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press