Pennsylvania vaccine plan in the works


Pennsylvania now has a Coronavirus vaccine plan in the works, although several vaccines still need FDA approval.

by Christen Smith, The Center Square

The Pennsylvania Department of Health discussed its three-phase vaccine plan for the state’s 12.8 million residents Thursday. The move came as federal approval looms for versions developed by Pfizer and Moderna.

Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said the first two vaccines could be available as soon as next month. It’s unclear how quickly the supply would reach the state, however.

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Then, the administration would follow a targeted schedule that prioritizes front line workers in health care and other essential services; as well as those with high risk conditions and the elderly.

An additional two phases would widen that scope, but it would take months, Levine warned.

“We will be wearing masks into 2021, probably until late 2021,” she said during a news briefing Thursday.

RELATED: Franklin County: COVID-19 surge in full swing

Surge in new cases

The news comes as the department announced more than 7,100 new cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in the past 24 hours. It represents the highest one day spike ever recorded in the state. Hospitalized patients exceed 2,900, 628 of which remain in intensive care. Levine said earlier this week that modeling suggests the state could run out of ICU beds in December.

An additional 116 people died, according to the department. Those deaths brought the state’s total to more than 9,500 since the first recorded case in early March.

On Tuesday, Levine told residents to wear masks in all settings, even when socially distanced, and avoid traveling, if possible.

RELATED: PA DoH: Mask, travel mandates tightened

The administration said there’s no plan to return to the statewide economic shutdowns enacted in the spring and summer to control the spread of virus.

Some local officials have tightened restrictions on their own. Philadelphia has banned indoor gatherings of any size. Indoor dining is prohibited and gyms, museums and libraries have closed. The city has also ordered colleges and high schools to return to virtual learning; and ordered reduced capacity limits inside stores.

Christen Smith

Christen Smith follows Pennsylvania’s General Assembly for The Center Square. She is an award-winning reporter with more than a decade of experience covering state and national policy issues for niche publications and local newsrooms alike.

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