Bright Side vaccines

Chet Patel, of the South Asian Association of Lancaster and NCS Pharmacy, mixes the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a pop-up vaccination center inside Bright Side Opportunity Center on Friday, March 19, 2021. The Lancaster NAACP, Patients R Waiting, the South Asian Association of Lancaster, Bright Side Baptist Church and Bright Side Opportunities Center collaborated to provide COVID-19 vaccines for about 400 people inside the Bright Side Opportunities Center that day.

Every Pennsylvania adult who wants a coronavirus vaccine should be able to get it by June 20, according to projections made by Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force. 

To accomplish that, the state will need to move through its next two phases of the vaccine rollout before opening up to the broader public, said state Sen. Ryan Aument, a Mount Joy Republican serving on the task force, which was created last month by Gov. Tom Wolf.

Aument said the state projects it will complete each of the state’s four vaccination phases by the following dates:

Pennsylvania is still in Phase 1A and remains committed to scheduling at least one vaccine appointment for everyone in that group by March 31, and opening eligibility more broadly by May 1, per President Joe Biden’s directive, a spokesperson for the Department of Health said in an email.

Communications staff from the department and Wolf’s office could  not immediately confirm the projected dates for completing most vaccinations shared by Aument.

The projections assume an 80% participation rate. No one will be required to receive a vaccine and some people say they won’t take it. As the vaccine supply increases, the state will continue to target hard-to-reach populations and those who are hesitant to get the vaccine, Aument said.

Vaccinations began in December in Pennsylvania, and Phase 1A includes people age 65 and older, residents and workers at long-term-care facilities, health care personnel and people with medical conditions that put them at high risk for COVID-19.

Once the state gets through Phase 1A, the rest of the rollout will move quickly, Aument predicted. He attributed much of the delay thus far to the large size of the state’s 65-and-older population and to early vaccine rollout fumbles.

The state’s population is 12.8 million, and about a third of them — or about 4.5 million — are eligible under Phase 1A. Some 3.6 million of them, or 80%, are expected to seek the vaccine, and about 2.9 million had already received at least one dose as of Thursday.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only one dose.

The federal government this week reduced its projected Pennsylvania allocation of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but with Pfizer and Moderna continuously surpassing their supply projections, Aument said state officials are confident they’ll still be able to meet their goals.

Many of the country’s most populous states are lowering their age for eligibility from 65 to those in their 50s, with several large states, such as Florida and California, setting April dates for when every adult will be eligible.

Aument said the task force has not discussed lowering the age at this point in Pennsylvania, and he said he believes that changing the eligibility requirements too soon could “lead to a lot of confusion.”

“We have to manage supply in the most effective manner, driving through-put with a laser-like focus on the 1A population that we’ve set,” Aument said. 

Pennsylvania continued to increase the volume of vaccine doses administered in the past week, now ranking 15th in the country for administering at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Aument predicted that the supply will surpass the demand “sooner than we think.” 

“It is quite remarkable — where we’ve been in the response to COVID,” Aument said.

Aument said he understands the frustration and early chaos during the state’s early rollout, but credited “American ingenuity” for the ability to mass produce vaccines to help the country end the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I hope folks can see how remarkable it has been particularly over the last couple of months and to get so many millions of Pennsylvanians vaccinated in a very short period of time,” he added.

As of Friday, at least 122,237 Lancaster County residents had been at least partially vaccinated, out of an estimated 432,000 people old enough to receive the vaccine.

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