Pa. Departments of Health, Human Services expand phase 1A priorities, distribution

The Pennsylvania Department of Health updated the plan for Phase1A on Tuesday to include residents over 65 and those aged 16-64 with serious conditions that may put them at greater risk for COVID-19.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has updated the vaccination efforts in Phase 1A to include all residents over 65 and those aged 16-64 with serious medical conditions that make them more at risk for a severe case of COVID-19.

Deputy Secretary of Health Cindy Findley, who is the head of the COVID-19 vaccine task force, reported on Tuesday that the expansion of Phase 1A includes those aged 16-64 with the following conditions: COPD, cancer, sickle cell disease, down syndrome, obesity, severe obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, chronic kidney disease.

Those with heart conditions such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or and immunocompromised states/weakened immune systems from solid organ transplant or from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines as well as pregnant women were also included in the update.

These new efforts in Phase 1A expand vaccination eligibility to about 3.5 million Pennsylvanians, according to the DOH.

“We are hearing from our vaccine providers that they have vaccinated all the non-affiliated healthcare workers in their area, while at the same time, we are hearing from health workers that they have not yet been vaccinated. We want you to get vaccinated as quickly as possible,” Findley said.

CDC officials have said that it’s critical to vaccinate healthcare workers to prevent the spread of the virus to hospitalized patients and residents of long term care facilities.

Residents who are unsure whether they are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine at this time should complete the vaccine eligibility quiz found at https://www.pa.gov/guides/get-vaccinated/.

Those who are covered under Phase 1A, meaning they are eligible now, can then view the interactive map on the webpage to find a vaccine provider and schedule an appointment directly with that local provider.

The DOH and the Department of Human Services announced a partnership on Monday between the state and Pennsylvania-based Rite Aid to administer COVID-19 vaccinations to staff and residents of specific long-term care facilities and congregate care settings licensed by DHS.

The DOH said that clinics will be established where the residents and staff of these licensed facilities can receive either vaccine doses at a scheduled time. The vaccination process will take place on-site for those who are unable to go to a clinic.

The Rite Aid partnership will begin on Jan. 27.

This partnership is separate from the Retail Pharmacy Partnership program, and vaccinations will not be taking place at Rite Aid pharmacies.

“As Pennsylvania and the nation move forward with administering COVID-19 vaccinations, we must ensure that our most vulnerable residents and the dedicated essential workers providing daily care and support are being protected and prioritized,” said DHS Secretary Teresa Miller. “This partnership will complement efforts being coordinated through the federal pharmacy partnership and ensure we are efficiently and effectively issuing vaccine supply to other critical, priority populations. We are grateful to Rite Aid for this collaboration and support in protecting vulnerable Pennsylvanians.”

The state is participating in the federal Pharmacy Partnership Program in order to plan vaccination for skilled nursing facilities that are licensed by the DOH, and long-term care facilities.

An estimated 6,000 facilities will be covered through this partnership. The process will take several weeks to coordinate the vaccinations with the limited vaccine allotments. Officials said these facilities will be contacted by their DHS licensing office with details in the near future.

The Early Warning Monitoring Dashboard update released Tuesday showed Bradford County at a percent-positivity of 11.9%.

The data, which was collected from Jan. 8 to Jan. 14, showed neighboring counties Wyoming (11.6%), Sullivan (5.9%), and Tioga (8.4%) have reported decreasing numbers as well.

Susquehanna (14%) and Lycoming (16.7%) counties had the highest rates of percent-positivity surrounding Bradford County.

The statewide percent-positivity followed the trend in lowering numbers at 12.7%. All 67 counties in Pennsylvania were once again reported at the substantial level of transmission.

“We continue to see great progress on bringing our statewide percent positivity rate down and I think that is due to Pennsylvanians continued commitment to wear a mask, avoid gatherings, wash their hands and practice social distancing,” Gov. Tom Wolf said. “I believe we can continue these best public health practices to continue to bring the transmission of COVID-19 down in our communities and keep each other safe as we continue the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.”

There were 16 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Bradford County on Tuesday, according to the DOH.

The increase in confirmed cases brought the county to 3,102 since the beginning of the pandemic.

There had been 63 total related deaths in the county with 29 of them confirmed to be among residents of long term care facilities.

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