About 41,400 health workers have received covid-19 vaccinations since last week, Heath secretary Dr. Rachel Levine on Wednesday.
Levine said hospitals vaccinate their own workers and that they are also responsible for administering doses to health professionals in their non-hospital-affiliated communities – including emergency medical service workers, non-affiliated doctors and other front-line staff. She instructed hospitals to reach out to the external agencies and begin coordinating their vaccinations.
“As hospitals are able to vaccinate their high-risk workers, it is very important that they continue to vaccinate healthcare professionals who face the same risks in their own workplace,” she said.
While EMS employees wear personal protective equipment, Levine said, “they go into unfamiliar situations and they really are our front-line responders.”
Immunizations are likely to pick up even more speed now that the Moderna vaccine is also circulating, Levine said. Modern doses will be sent to several state hospitals in the state, which may not have as much of the ultra-cold freezing capacity as the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires.
Levine said the administration is still working on plans to distribute vaccines to priority groups, including prison inmates and the broad category of “important workers.” Long-term care residents and staff begin receiving vaccines Monday through a partnership between the federal government, CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week released new guidelines for group “1b”, another level of the population receiving priority vaccinations that includes people over the age of 75, key frontline workers and some other groups. Levine said Pennsylvania is revising its own distribution plan to fall in line with the CDC guidelines.
“We are working on how we want to do it. We plan to partner with many different entities to get these vaccines ready, ”Levine said, adding that the Department of Health is likely to work with pharmacies and healthcare providers and possibly set up some mass vaccination clinics.
The rate at which the state can vaccinate anyone who needs and wants one will largely depend on how many doses Pennsylvania receives from the federal government, she said, and it will be months before there is enough to vaccinate the public.
“What that indicates,” Levine said, “is how important it is for all of us during the holidays – Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year – that we stay the course and avoid large and small gatherings and stay home and be with our families externally. . I know it’s a huge sacrifice, but it’s what we need to do to stop the spread and make sure we do not get another rebound in January. ”
Levine said she and Gov. Tom Wolf are monitoring case levels to determine if further mitigation strategies will be needed after the current order expires Jan. 4.
There are currently 6,142 covid-19 patients hospitalized across the state, with 1,263 in intensive care and 764 in ventilators, according to Pennsylvania’s covid data dashboard. The state reported 9,605 new cases on Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases to 581,156. 230 new deaths were reported, bringing the total state to 14,442 deaths from covid.
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