Pa. officials say they’re taking ‘aggressive steps’ to meet Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine goal

Coronavirus

Wolf outlined the key, significant progress the state is making in rolling out the vaccine

COVID-19 Vaccine

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(WKBN) – Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and the COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force provided an update on the commonwealth’s vaccination plan on Friday.

They announced another bi-partisan effort to complete COVID phase 1A vaccinations first and set up mass vaccination clinics with regionally-supplied plans to inform allocations and vaccinate frontline workers.

“The efforts of the COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force are making significant headway in getting more people vaccinated,” Wolf said. “The special initiative the Task Force agreed on last week to vaccinate educators, school staff, and early childhood educators is well underway, and we are making incredible progress vaccinating Pennsylvanians eligible in Phase 1A. These new initiatives will move us even further in the state’s vaccinate rollout.

Last night, President ​Joe Biden laid out a bold plan for our country with a goal of making every American adult eligible to receive a vaccine by May 1. My administration is taking aggressive steps to meet that timeline, and we are fortunate to have the leadership and partnership of President Biden and his administration as we work to protect the people of Pennsylvania.”

Wolf outlined the key, significant progress the state is making in rolling out the vaccine. Last month, the Acting Secretary of Health issued an order directing vaccine providers’ administration of COVID-19 vaccines to ensure that Pennsylvanians are vaccinated as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Since that order, the state’s hospital systems now have enough vaccine to partner with counties to create county vaccination sites, and the state has seen impressive improvements in its vaccine infrastructure and administration rates. Over the past month county vaccination rates are climbing, and many, including Westmoreland County and all collar counties in the ​Southeast, are at or above the statewide rate of 15 percent. Montgomery County is 5 percentage points above the statewide average for vaccination rates.  

Nearly 1 million Pennsylvanians over 65 have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and more than 72,000 people are being vaccinated every single day in Pennsylvania.

As President Biden mentioned Thursday night, the state has been working with the federal government to set up 27 federal vaccine program sites in the commonwealth. Four of those sites are already participating in that program: three in Philadelphia and one in Lycoming County.

Earlier, the Wolf Administration provided an update on the teacher, school staff and child care worker vaccination initiative at 10 a.m.

Department of Education Acting Secretary Noe Ortega and PEMA Director Randy Padfield gave the update.

It’s a special initiative to provide Pennsylvania’s allocation of the newly-approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine to teachers, school staff members and child care workers.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported an additional 3,074 positive cases of COVID-19 and 40 new deaths since Thursday, when 2,652 news cases and 51 new deaths were reported.

That brings the statewide total to 961,456 cases and 24,530 deaths attributed to COVID-19.

There are 1,494 individuals hospitalized with COVID-19. Of that number, 320 patients are in the intensive care unit with COVID-19. Most of the patients hospitalized are ages 65 or older, and most of the deaths have occurred in patients 65 or older. More data is available here.

The trend in the 14-day moving average number of hospitalized patients per day is about 4,400 lower than it was at the peak on December 25, 2020. However, the current 14-day average is now also below what it was at the height of the spring peak on May 3, 2020.

Statewide percent positivity for the week of February 26 – March 4 stood at 5.7%.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard.

There are 116,334 individuals who have a positive viral antigen test and are considered probable cases and 640 individuals who have a positive serology test and either COVID-19 symptoms or a high-risk exposure. 

There are 3,980,898 individuals who have tested negative to date.

In licensed nursing and personal care homes, there are 68,411 resident cases of COVID-19, and 13,747 cases among employees, for a total of 82,158 at 1,559 distinct facilities in all 67 counties. Out of total deaths reported to PA-NEDSS, 12,754 have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities. A county breakdown can be found here. Note that the number of deaths reported to NEDSS is not exactly the same as the COVID-19 related deaths reported by the death registry. The number of deaths among nursing and personal care home residents and employees is taken from the PA-NEDSS death data, as this information is not available in the death registry data.

Approximately 25,572 of our total cases are among health care workers.

COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

Pennsylvania hospitals began receiving shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine the week of Dec. 14 and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine the week of Dec. 21. The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine was first allocated to Pennsylvania the week of March 1, and the commonwealth is using it for a special initiative involving educators. 

Vaccination numbers for Pennsylvania do not include Philadelphia, which is its own jurisdiction, or federal facilities, which are working directly with the federal government.

Vaccine highlights

  • More than 3.2 million doses of vaccine administered across the state — more vaccine administered than 44 other states.
  • More than 1 million people fully vaccinated — more than 72,000 people per day receiving vaccinations.
  • Nearly 1 million people aged 65 and older vaccinated.
  • More than 62,000 residents of Skilled Nursing Facilities are fully vaccinated.
  • This week, a total of 4,179,220 doses will have been allocated through March 13:
    • 254,150 first/single doses will have been allocated this week.
    • 225,890 second doses will have been allocated this week.
  • To date, of the 4,179,220 doses allocated through March 13, we have administered 3,395,360 doses total through March 11:
    • First/single doses, 95 percent (2,292,737 administered of 2,427,085 allocated)
    • Second doses, 67 percent (1,173,730 administered of 1,752,135 allocated)

Friday’s announcement of plans by the task force focus include three key areas that augment the significant progress already made: 

  • Scheduling vaccine appointments for those in Phase 1A who are still seeking a vaccination. To date nearly 1 million Pennsylvanians age 65 and older have received a first dose of vaccine. The number of Phase 1A eligible Pennsylvanians with a first dose now tops 3 million. More than 72,000 Pennsylvanians are being vaccinated every day.

“Our 1A population contains some of the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians, and it is crucial that these individuals get vaccinated as quickly as possible,” Wolf said. “The Secretary of Health will also be issuing an Order that will require vaccine providers to make best efforts to schedule all 1A appointments by the end of the month. To assist them in achieving this goal, we will be providing greater visibility into their future allocations. This will allow them to schedule appointments with confidence in having sufficient supply to keep those appointments.” 

  • Establishing Regional Vaccination Clinics using a portion of the weekly allocation of Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses after the completion of the special initiative to vaccinate teachers, school staff and child care workers. This will be made available to regions and counties throughout the commonwealth.

Counties will be encouraged to work within their region to submit a proposal for a mass vaccination clinic, community vaccination clinics, mobile clinics or other strategy to vaccinate their region’s currently eligible individuals. The Task Force will review proposals and determine those that best demonstrate an ability to support a mass vaccination clinic.

“We know that county leaders and emergency management organizations have been working hard to put plans in place and make preparations for vaccination sites in their communities,” Gov. Wolf said. “We will be working closely with the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania to create plans for these regional vaccine clinics.”

  • Targeting frontline workers and first responders using a portion of J&J doses. Targeted industries include law enforcement/correctional staff, grocery workers, firefighters (both career and volunteer), meat processing and agriculture workers.

“Our goal in establishing special vaccination initiatives is to help protect frontline, essential workers and their communities,” Gov. Wolf said. “These are the Pennsylvanians who have had no choice but to continue serving our commonwealth during this pandemic. These workers, their families, and entire communities will be safer if they are vaccinated as quickly as possible.”

 Using the J&J supply to support regionally planned and facilitated mass vaccination sites, as well as quickly completing vaccine missions for critical frontline workers means more shots in arms while helping seniors secure appointments and receive their vaccine before more broadly opening up to additional populations.

“This commitment today from the Administration will allow Pennsylvania to quickly achieve herd immunity, reopen our economy, and return to regular life,” said Sen. Ryan Aument.

“We are committed to vaccinating our neighbors who are seniors in the next few weeks,” Sen. Art Haywood said. “Plus, we are taking a big step to vaccinate black, brown and white people in frontline jobs. The end is in sight.”

 “Last week, we as a taskforce announced a special initiative that prioritized the health and safety of our teachers and our students across the commonwealth,” said Rep. Bridget Malloy Kosierowski. “By securing and allocating the 94,600 doses of Johnson & Johnson Vaccines, educators, school staff, and early childhood educators across Pennsylvania are currently being vaccinated-paving a way to get our children safely back into the classrooms.

“With 200,000 J&J weekly doses coming to Pennsylvania starting the week of March 28 and our supply of Moderna and Pfizer continuing to increase weekly, today’s announcement is another special initiative that again is a step in the right direction to not only protect our most vulnerable population but also speed up our vaccine rollout. Through the regional vaccination clinics, we will achieve greater access for seniors who have been struggling to find available doses and a more equitable distribution by allowing communities to direct doses to their most vulnerable residents and in April we will also be able to target our frontline, essential workers who have had no choice but to continue serving our commonwealth amidst this pandemic.”

“While it has been a bumpy road for the Commonwealth with its vaccine administration rollout, I’m confident we are now on the right path,” said Rep. Tim O’Neal. “I know concerns still exist surrounding vaccine supply and distribution, but today’s announcement is another important step forward. I’m pleased we have made enough substantial progress with getting those in Group 1A vaccinated that our essential workers and first responders will soon be able to get the vaccine.”

Wolf explained that the Task Force is still working through the details of these next special initiatives and will announce more information before additional Johnson & Johnson allocations become available on March 28.

“We have work to do to get the infrastructure in place to vaccinate these populations, which is why we’re starting the process now,” Wolf said. “We should all be excited about the fact that our vaccine allocations are increasing.

“Thanks to the COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force legislative members for their partnership in addressing the challenges of the vaccine rollout and thanks to the many vaccine providers across the commonwealth. Without the efforts of on-the-ground vaccine providers, none of this would be possible.”

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