COVID-19 vaccine

‘We Need to Get Better': Only 1 in 3 Vaccine Doses Received by Pa. Used So Far

Pennsylvania's health secretary, Dr. Rachel Levine, said the vaccination continues to improve that hopes the federal government will change the way it doles out doses under the incoming Biden administration.

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Pennsylvania has received more than 828,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine since the federal government began distribution last month.

Yet only 285,000 doses have been administered through Dec. 10, according to figures provided by the state's health secretary, Dr. Rachel Levine. That's roughly one out of every three doses received so far by health care facilities in the state.

"I don’t think there is a problem getting organized, but there is a number of explanations for that," Levine said while answering reporters' questions on Monday. "There are reporting delays of up to 24 hours for hospitals, and Walgreens and CVS has up to 72 hours. And I think we need to do better to get vaccines in arms."

In addition to reporting delays and local lags in administering the COVID-19 vaccine, Levine also said she hopes that the federal government will open up the distribution pathways more under the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden.

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"We would like more advance notice from the federal government," she said of "Operation Warp Speed" and its current allocation system that gives state governments a week-by-week heads up of doses being sent out.

Still, Levine added, she believes states, local governments and health care systems are getting back at vaccinating people, and expects the entire process to improve as the rollout continues this year.

"I think things have already geared up throughout Pennsylvania and throughout the nation. I think that will continue to increase," she said.

Pennsylvania remains in Phase 1A of the vaccination rollout, and Phase 1B is still weeks away. Phase 1A is defined by the state Department of Public Health website as enrolled hospital systems in Pennsylvania that are vaccinating their healthcare personnel, and a partnership through the federal government with CVS and Walgreens to vaccinate residents and staff in long-term care facilities.

There are roughly 1 million Pennsylvanians who are eligible for the vaccination in Phase 1A.

Once Phase 1A is complete, the state will move to Phase 1B. That is unlikely to occur for at least a few weeks, Levine and other health care officials locally have said.

Phase 1B is a less defined group than 1A. The state describes Pennsylvanians who will be vaccinated in Phase 1B as "first responders, critical workers, and people with high-risk conditions."

That large group will also be vaccinated through "enrolled partnerships with pharmacies and Federally Qualified Health Centers," the state says.

A map of vaccination locations is expected to be released by the Department of Public Health on Monday for those in Phase 1B, Levine said.

Once Phase 1 is complete, all Pennsylvanians will become eligible for the vaccine as part of Phase 2. There is no timeline for that yet.

Over the weekend, 186 additional Pennsylvanians were reported killed by COVID-19, the state said, bringing the total deaths from the coronavirus pandemic to 17,853.

There have been more than 726,000 confirmed cases. More than 1,000 Pennsylvanians are currently in the intensive care units of hospitals throughout the state.

The positivity rate for new COVID-19 tests was 14.4% on Monday, according to Levine. In 10 of Pennsylvania's 67 counties, one in every five people tested for the coronavirus are positive for the disease.

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