March 31, 2021
Pennsylvania officials revealed an accelerated the timeline for advancing through its COVID-19 vaccine eligibility phases.
All residents ages 16 or older will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine beginning April 19. The state's eligibility guidelines do not apply to Philadelphia, which has its own vaccine phases and aims to make a similar move by May 1.
Pennsylvania currently is administering vaccines to people included in Phase 1A, which covers a broad range of vulnerable populations, including front line workers, seniors and people with high risk medical conditions.
Additionally, four targeted industries are now eligible to receive a vaccine. The change includes law enforcement officers, firefighters, grocery store workers and food and agricultural workers. Those groups include 190,000 to 250,000 people, officials said.
On Monday, Pennsylvania will move into Phase 1B, expanding vaccine access to more essential workers such as first responders, corrections officers and public transit employees.
The state will enter Phase 1C on April 12. That stage covers a broader group of essential workers including those in food service, transportation and logistics, housing construction, media and finance, among others.
Pennsylvania's revised timeline aims to meet President Joe Biden's goal to make COVID-19 vaccines accessible to 90% of adults in the United States by April 19. The president aims to make all adults eligible by May 1.
Officials confirmed Philadelphia's suburban counties will receive an expected 42,000 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which will be distributed and administered individually by Montgomery, Bucks, Delaware and Chester counties. The four counties previously had pushed back against a state plan to create two Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency sites.
Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam said Pennsylvania has the 12th highest number of residents who have received at least one COVID-19 dose, citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Pennsylvania's vaccine providers have dramatically stepped up the pace of vaccinations to an average of 83,000 per day, moving the Keystone State higher and higher in the rankings with other states," Beam said. "As we complete Phase 1A vaccinations, it's time to open eligibility to more Pennsylvanians so providers can continue to fill appointments and efficiently, effectively and equitably vaccinate more people every day."
Beam said state officials feel confident they can meet the new timeline thanks to increased vaccine supply and direct federal allocations to pharmacies, which could double over the next two months.
Pennsylvania plans to ease COVID-19 restrictions Sunday despite a recent surge in new coronavirus infections across the state. Officials said those plans remain on track.
As of Tuesday, Pennsylvania vaccine providers have administered more than 5 million vaccine doses. About 1.8 million people are fully vaccinated and 1.6 million are partially vaccinated. Those numbers do not include Philly.
About 263,000 city residents are fully vaccinated and another 251,000 have received their first doses.