Pennsylvania's health department will shift how it allocates first doses of coronavirus vaccines and order other changes, amid criticism that the state's rollout has been slow to get shots into arms.
Officials say within a few weeks, the state will give a larger share of vaccine doses to providers that have administered their supply quickly: hospitals, federally qualified health centers, local health departments and independent pharmacies.
The number of providers getting first doses will be culled to 200-300 after providers improve their reporting of vaccination data.
"This means that some providers will not get as many first doses of vaccine as they have in the past," Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam said on a press call Friday. "However, this is the most efficient way to get people vaccinated quickly, so we can resume some activities as a community."
And providers could have their allocation of doses reduced if they administer less than 80% of first doses within seven days of receiving a shipment, with some wiggle room if there is severe weather or issues beyond the clinic's control.
Beam said that as more supply is available, the supply could be expanded back to smaller sites.
By Feb. 19, providers are ordered to make appointments accessible for everyone in Phase 1A, online and through phone systems answered by a live person, to help someone schedule their appointment.
"Using strictly online systems, or phone systems that point you to the online system, has left out many, including seniors who may not be tech-savvy or have access to the internet," Beam said.
In response to multiple questions from reporters on the press call, Beam said there were no plans to make a centralized state site for scheduling vaccine appointments. The state launched a website this week where residents can be notified when it's their turn to get an appointment - but users still need to contact a provider after getting that notification.
Shots in arms around the region
As of 3 p.m. Friday, Pennsylvania ranked 39th among U.S. states in the percentage of shots administered, according to data on the vaccine rollout compiled by the New York Times.
Health Department Senior Advisor Lindsey Mauldin said the state has administered more than 1.5 million doses as of Friday morning, including 81% of allocated first doses, and 35% of allocated second doses.
“We need to do better. Pennsylvanians demand more of us and we will do better,” Beam said when asked about the state's ranking.
On the Times's list, West Virginia led the pack, administering 91% of their doses. New Jersey ranked 25th, and Delaware was 20th in the nation.
Pennsylvania - and Philadelphia, which receives its doses directly and separate from the state - do not plainly report the percent of shots administered on their vaccine data dashboards.
Delaware does - and had administered 83% of its roughly 162,000 received doses, according to the state website on Friday afternoon.
A spokesman for Delaware's Department of Public Health said 107,000 people ages 65 and over had signed up for a vaccine waiting list since Jan. 20. More than 32,000 people have received doses, including 20,000 in state-sponsored mass clinics.
New Jersey reports administering roughly 1.07 million out of 1.5 million doses, or 71%, on its COVID-19 data dashboard.
Philadelphia passed the 200,000 shots mark this week, according to data from the city's Department of Public Health. Users on the site can see a rough amount of doses administered over the last 7 days, and cumulative first doses administered.
A department spokesman said roughly 150,000 first doses have been received, and the dashboard showed 138,095 first doses administered.
"Many of the doses that are 'in storage' are being held to be distributed to partners throughout the city, and being held in preparation for mass clinics," the spokesman, James Garrow, wrote in an emailed statement.
Garrow said the department is going site-by-site and verifying how many doses have been administered versus received, and "hope to be able to release that information soon."
"We cannot forget that the limiting factor is our supply of vaccine," Pennsylvania's Beam said, noting the state is tracking federal information about when more doses are coming and when new vaccines could be available.