Pa. announces accelerated COVID-19 vaccine timeline; all residents eligible by April 19

HARRISBURG (WPVI) -- Pennsylvania health officials announced on Wednesday that beginning April 19, all residents will be able to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment.

According to officials, beginning March 31, all law enforcement officials, including police, sheriffs and deputies, constables, corrections officers and staff, as well as probation and parole staff, firefighters, and grocery store workers, will be eligible to receive a vaccine.

On April 5, all residents in phase 1B will be eligible to receive a shot. The state will then move to phase 1C on April 12. All Pennsylvanians will be eligible to receive a vaccine on April 19.

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Pennsylvania health officials announced that beginning April 19 all residents will be able to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment.

"Pennsylvania's vaccine providers have dramatically stepped up the pace of vaccinations to an average of 83,000 per day, moving the Keystone State higher and higher in the rankings with other states. As we complete Phase 1A vaccinations, it's time to open eligibility to more Pennsylvanians so providers can continue to fill appointments and efficiently, effectively and equitably vaccinate more people every day," Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam said.

The news of eligibility expansion comes as the four southeastern collar counties, including Bucks, Montgomery, Chester and Delaware, were locked in a battle with the state over vaccine allotment.

The Wolf administration asked for the counties to provide input, and instead of listening to their collective request to send vaccines to existing county sites, the state proposed one mass vaccination site for all of the four counties.

On Wednesday, Barry Ciccocioppo, a spokesperson for the Department of Health, said the counties' persistence did not play a role. Rather, more vaccine availability did.

Ciccocioppo said 66,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines will come to the state by the end of the week; 42,000 of those will go to the four counties to be divided equally.

"We're happy that we're getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccines, that's very exciting," said Rosemarie Halt, Director of the Delaware County COVID Task Force.

The county is now scrambling to adjust their staffing to be able to vaccinate a staggering 20,000 people a week now that they will be receiving 10,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in addition to the 10,000 doses of Pfizer & Moderna. And they are going to make it a lot easier for people to sign up.

"We're gonna publish a link starting next week, so there won't be a pre-registration process anymore. You'll just have a link and you can go in and pick your appointment," said Halt.

In Montgomery County, Commissioner Dr. Valerie Arkoosh signaled a sigh of relief that they will be receiving 10,500 doses a week of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that will be distributed through pharmacies throughout the county.

In Chester County, officials say they are still looking forward to confirmation on the amount of doses they will be getting so they can begin setting up appointments.

Bucks County officials will be getting about 10,000 Johnson & Johnson doses a week in addition to their allotment of 8,000 doses of Pfizer.

"We sent out about 50,000 emails over the last few days to everyone left in our 1A list so that they can start scheduling themselves. And now with our Johnson & Johnson (vaccine), we'll be able to reach out to our people in the 1B and 1C lists," said Commissioner Bob Harvie, vice chair of the Bucks County Board of Commissioners.

President Joe Biden announced earlier this week that 90% of adults will be eligible to get a coronavirus vaccine within the next three weeks as well as have a vaccination site within five miles of where they live.

Residents should continue to use the Department of Health's Vaccine Provider Map to find a vaccine provider nearest them, officials said.

People without internet access can contact the Health Hotline by calling 1-877-PA-HEALTH.

Philadelphia officials said the state's announcement would not impact its vaccine rollout; the city receives its own vaccine allocation.

Philadelphia is still inoculating residents in its Phase 1B and will not open eligibility to every adult until May 1.
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