PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- The wait is over for Pennsylvanians. Tuesday is the first day that all state residents age 16 and older can start getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
This is welcome news for so many as the race to vaccinate the state continues. Thousands of people who thought they couldn't schedule a vaccine appointment until next week can instead do that today.
Pittsburgh Mercy on the South Side says it's about time to allow more people to sign up for the vaccine in the state. For the facility, it didn't take long for the over 200 available appointments to be booked.
The community-based location focuses on behavioral and physical health but Tuesday's vaccine clinic was for anyone 18 and older.
"I think that once everyone gets the vaccine, then things will start to get better, we won't have to wear masks all the time," said Victor Williams, who received his first dose of the Moderna vaccine.
Williams is a student at Pine-Richland High School. He says getting the shot is about giving him the freedom to be around more people."
"I'm a big athlete at my school and to be able to continue to do sports that I love," said Williams.
Governor Tom Wolf says because President Joe Biden bumped up the timeline for adult access to vaccines, he wanted to do the same here in Pennsylvania. It's nearly a week earlier than the state's original date of April 19.
This comes with a rise in COVID-19 cases with hospitalizations also spiking over the past few weeks across the state and in Allegheny County. Health professionals believe vaccinations are the best single way to bring the infection rate back down.
Since the beginning of the year, Pittsburgh Mercy has administered over 8,000 shots of the Moderna vaccine.
"I'm really glad that we can try and help everybody," said Dr. Todd Wahrenberger the chief medical officer at the facility. He says there were times people were either not signing up or showing up for the vaccine, leaving vacancies.
"Normally we have years to plan these kinds of rollouts. And we're doing it so fast that I think it's inevitable that we're going to have problems," said Wahrenberger.
But that changed this week with the new eligibility.
"Until we reached this next general group, I think it's going to be easier for a little while. People are wanting to get the vaccination," said Wahrenberger.
KDKA spoke with Allegheny Health Network, who says they're on board with opening up the eligibility sooner.
"I think it's an excellent idea. It will help us fill these appointments more quickly and get shots in the arms as quickly as possible," said Imran Qadeer, AHN Chief Medical officer.
This means that everyone in the state age 16 and older will now be able to schedule a vaccine appointment.
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