PHILADELPHIA - Pennsylvania began the arduous effort to vaccinate the sixth largest population in the country shortly after the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was given federal approval in early December.
The state's vaccination effort began with healthcare workers and nursing home staff and residents. While doses remain in short supply, the state recently outline a path forward that will make all Pennsylvania residents 16 and older eligible by April 19.
Health officials anticipate more than 540 healthcare centers, pharmacies and hospitals will join the effort to help administer the vaccine, which includes federally allocated supplies of Pfizer, Moderna and the one-shot Johnson & Johnson dose.
To help residents keep track of the state's progress, Pennsylvania has created a COVID-19 vaccination dashboard. The helpful tool shows users how many doses have been administered by county and important demographic statistics.
An expected surge of available doses has recently allowed Pennsylvania health officials to forecast an accelerated plan that aims to make every adult in the state eligible for a shot by April 19, according to Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam.
Upon the announcement, vaccine appointments were expanded to include police, corrections officers and other law enforcement; volunteer and professional firefighters; grocery employees; and food and farmworkers.
Less than a week later, eligibility will expand to the entirety of Phase 1B, a group that includes postal, public transit and manufacturing employees.
Next will be Phase 1C starting April 12, which includes workers in transportation and logistics, water and wastewater, communications and media, public health, legal services, finance and construction.
Everyone else can start making vaccine appointments on April 19.
Of course, vaccine appointments remain available to any group previously eligible in Pennsylvania. Healthcare workers, residents and staff at long-term care facilities, and anyone 65+ can make an appointment. Shots are likewise available to people 16 - 64 with serious health conditions outlined by the FDA and educators.
A short quiz can help users determine if they are eligible before helping you find a nearby vaccine provider and contacting them to make an appointment.
Once you get the first dose, you will receive a vaccination card that will serve as a reminder to return for your second dose in the appropriate amount of time.
Philadelphia, the largest city in Pennsylvania boasting a population of over 1.5 million people, has operated somewhat independently from the state for most of the pandemic. The city is receiving its own allotment of COVID-19 doses from the federal government and will handle the vaccine distribution.
According to Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley, the city is currently receiving thousands of doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine per week. The federal allotment is expected to increase as production ramps up, according to officials.
The city is using a similar tiered distribution system that prioritizes healthcare workers and nursing home residents. Philadelphia entered Phase 1B on Jan. 19, shifting some of the focus to first responders, teachers, and people over 75-years-old. As part of an ongoing effort to re-open Philadelphia public schools, the city is partnering with Children's Hospital of Philadelphia to inoculate teachers and staff.
As of March 10, the city expanded vaccine eligibility to those 65 and older to fit into Phase 1B.
The rollout will expand to include more essential workers under Phase 1C and high-risk populations between 64 and 74. The city will only move to Phase 2 when doses are plentiful enough to vaccinate the general public.
Health officials say there is no timetable for increasing eligibility due to the fluid nature of vaccine rollout. In the meantime, Philadelphians are being asked to continue mitigation strategies designed to limit the spread of COVID-19. The city hopes to vaccinate at least 70% of its population, which officials predict will provide herd immunity.
Philadelphia residents who wish to receive the COVID-19 vaccine can now pre-register on a new website launched by the city. Due to extremely limited vaccine supply, residents cannot set appointments using this website. Officials said it may take weeks or months before residents will be able to schedule appointments. If you wish to sign up, please visit the vaccine interest website, here.
Similar to the state, Philadelphia has created its own coronavirus vaccine dashboard to keep residents up to date on the city's progress.
Health officials in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia highly encourage residents to get the vaccine when they are eligible. Residents should be familiar with their nearest vaccine location for future planning.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health has created a map that plots all hospitals, healthcare providers, and pharmacies that have received or will receive the COVID-19 vaccine. So far, more than 500 locations are expected to join the vast inoculation effort.
The Philadelphia Department of Health is now overseeing the mass vaccination clinic at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in the wake of the Philly Fighting COVID scandal. The city says it will up to six mass vaccination clinics each week beginning Feb. 22. The city plans to partner with more organizations, like the Black Doctors Consortium, to expand vaccination efforts.
According to the state's website, residents should make an appointment to receive their first dose to avoid overwhelming facilities and staff. Appointments can be made online through the county or private provider. Officials say it is imperative to the efficacy of the vaccine that residents return in for their second dose.
The Pfizer vaccine requires a 21 day period between doses and the Moderna vaccine requires 28 days. Healthcare providers will give patients a date to return for their booster shot.
The push to innoculate as many Americans as possible with either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine is being paid for by the federal government, meaning it comes free of charge to residents.
Based on the CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Program Provider Agreement, all providers must vaccinate individuals regardless of whether they have health insurance coverage or what type of coverage they have, and are prohibited from balance billing or otherwise charging vaccine recipients.
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