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COVID-19 In Pennsylvania: State Behind On Vaccine Distribution, Light On Details On Catching Up

HARRISBURG (KDKA) - Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine on Monday came under fire for the slow rollout of the coronavirus vaccine and a lack of specifics moving forward. While hospitals continue to vaccinate frontline healthcare workers and pharmacies attend to residents in long-term care, the rest of us are on hold.

Catherine Poisel is 70 years old with an immune deficiency and is anxious to be vaccinated for coronavirus. But like the rest of us, she's in the dark about how or when.

Her daughter, Rosalia Poisel, is angry.

"It is very frustrating. It's very confusing too that no one knows when they can get one," she said.

Pennsylvania's Health Secretary says more than 135,000 Pennsylvanians have received a COVID-19 vaccine.

CVS and Walgreens have completed vaccinations at 115 skilled nursing facilities, although Levine said they're still waiting on the federal partnership program to tell them exactly how many people were vaccinated at these clinics.

"Nationally, we expect the vaccination efforts to move into high gear now in the new year," said Levine.


She says the state is expecting about 166,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, with about 97,000 of those second doses for healthcare workers vaccinated three weeks ago. Doses will also go to healthcare facilities to vaccinate personnel and to the CVS and Walgreens partnership.

The state is also anticipating about 80,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine this week.

Those frontline workers and long-term care residents are part of Group 1a in the vaccine rollout. But still waiting on information is Group 1b — people 75 and older and other essential frontline workers like police officers, firefighters and teachers. Levine says they'll be vaccinated when supplies become available.

"When we come to 1b, I promise you we will be ready. We'll have all the resources we need and all the plans we need to start that but we're not there yet," she said.

But unlike states like Florida and New Jersey, which are already setting up mass clinics to vaccinate large numbers of people, Levine would only say Pennsylvania is looking at operating similar facilities.

And there was no clarity on how and when the state would administer the vaccine to group 1c, which includes people 64 to 74 and people 16 to 64 with high-risk medical conditions.

"I think you'll find that here in Pennsylvania and throughout the United States now that the holidays are over, things are going to be gearing up," Levine said.

But, people like the Poisels have already grown skeptical.

"There's no plan. The government has no plan," Rosalia Poisel said.

Pennsylvania is in line for new federal funding under the new stimulus package to help ramp distribution, and locally, the Allegheny County Health Department is expected to a announce plan on Wednesday. But the state's plan is still a work in progress.

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