As COVID cases rise, health officials prep for vaccine rollout

Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine warns of a 'fall resurgence' of COVID-19 cases during a news conference on Monday, 10/19/20 (screen capture)

On Thursday, state health officials confirmed that new cases of COVID-19 reached a new daily high with 2,900 positive cases and 47 new deaths, bringing the statewide total to 220,566 cases in all 67 counties

As cases rise across the commonwealth, state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said state officials have no plan to return to stay-at-home orders or a lockdown. Instead, the department is focusing on its containment efforts. 

Levine laid out the department’s preparations for the distribution and administration of a long-waited COVID-19 vaccine when it arrives. 

If one of the many COVID-19 vaccines is approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration, it will be given emergency use authorization, meaning it will be produced and distributed immediately after approval. 

Levine cautioned that a vaccine “will not immediately end the pandemic,” adding that it will likely be similar to a flu vaccine, which is effective anywhere from 40-60 percent of the time with individuals experiencing more mild symptoms of the virus, if they contract it. 

Levine said there are a variety of vaccines being tested, some are single shot with a booster about a month after the initial  vaccine while others are a series of shots.

When it’s approved and distributed, the vaccine will slow community spread over time, Levine said.

While there’s no rollout date yet, Levine confirmed that the Department of Health has submitted a plan for distribution of the vaccine to the Centers for Disease Control and is working with the CDC on revisions to the plan. 

Levine said healthcare and frontline workers will likely be among the first to get the vaccine. The department plans to roll out the vaccine in three phases.

  1. Healthcare workers
  2. More vulnerable populations, such as nursing homes
  3. General public, via widespread distribution

Levine said state health officials will “mobilize distribution as soon as we get it,” adding that distribution  will begin within days of the FDAs approval of the vaccine. 

The department plans to be doing “thousands and thousands of vaccines a day,” Levine said.

The vaccine is not mandatory, Levine said, “we need to message the importance of getting the vaccine when it becomes available.”

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.