The following summary is derived from the PA DOH Interim Vaccination Plan, dated December 11, 2020 as well as information from the January 6, 2021 issue of the Beaver County Times and other media.
The full 68-page text of the Pennsylvania Department of Health Vaccination Plan can be found at: https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/Documents/Programs/Immunizations/Vaccine%20Plan%20V.3%20FINAL.pdf
Summary of Contents
Vaccine Distribution Phases
When will each phase roll out?
How will I be notified when it’s my time to get vaccinated?
Where will I get the vaccine?
How will I prove which group I’m in?
How can I find vaccine information?
Vaccine Distribution Phases
Phase 1a – Health care personnel and residents of long-term care facilities – Now (December–February)
Health Care Personnel – There are around 21 million health care workers in the U.S., from those who work in hospitals and emergency medical services to those who provide long-term care and home health care. The CDC has suggested that health care personnel whose jobs require them to work within 6 feet of others be vaccinated before other health care workers.
Residents of Long-term facilities – An additional 3 million adults live in long-term care facilities, which include nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and skilled nursing facilities. The CDC has suggested that residents of skilled nursing facilities receive the vaccine before residents of other types of long-term care facilities if doses are limited, due to the COVID-19-associated death rate among the former group.
Phase 1b – Front-line essential workers and People 75 and older – (January-February?)
Front-line essential workers – include a wide range of people who have jobs that put them at greater risk of being infected, or who simply have jobs that are especially vital to society and a functioning economy.
According to the CDC, they include:
- Police officers
- Corrections officers
- Food and agricultural workers
- S. Postal Service workers
- Manufacturing workers
- Grocery store workers
- Public transit workers
- Those who work in education (teachers, support staff and day care workers)
People who are 75 or older – are especially at risk for poor outcomes if they contract COVID-19. About 80% of reported COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have occurred in people who were at least 65 years old.
Phase 1c – People 65-74; People 16-64 with underlying health conditions; Other essential workers – (February?)
People 65-74 – People at least 65 years old are at especially high risk for poor outcomes — including hospitalization, illness and death — from COVID-19.
People 16-64 with underlying health conditions – People with certain health conditions also are at high risk of complications from COVID-19, regardless of their age. (The CDC has a long list of such underlying conditions on its website.)
Other essential workers – including:
- Transportation and logistics
- Food service
- Housing construction and finance
- Information technology
- Public safety
- Public health
Phase 2 – Critical Workers; People with high-risk conditions; People with vaccine access challenges – Spring-Summer
Critical Workers – including workers who are essential to continue critical infrastructure and maintain the services and functions Americans depend on daily and workers who cannot perform their duties remotely and must work in close proximity to others
High Risk Conditions – including:
- Asthma (moderate-to-severe)
- Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain)
- Cystic fibrosis
- Hypertension or high blood pressure
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines
- Neurologic conditions, such as dementia
- Liver disease
- Pulmonary fibrosis (having damaged or scarred lung tissues)
- Overweight (BMI of 25 kg/m² and higher, but less than 30 kg/m²)
- Intellectual or neurological disabilitiesoThalassemia
- Type 1 diabetes mellitus age-associated higher risk
- People age 40 -64 years
- Residents of a congregate setting
- College dormitories
- Military barracks
- Boarding schools
- Summer camps
Phase 3 – All persons of any age not previously vaccinated – Summer and Beyond
6. When will each phase roll out?
Wondering when each phase will occur? It’s difficult to say, and likely will vary by state.
For example, Massachusetts officials have created an estimated time horizon for residents at a government website. The Bay State’s schedule is broken into three phases and is as follows:
- Phase 1: December-February
- Phase 2: February-April
- Phase 3: April-June
The Massachusetts schedule roughly — although not exactly — follows the CDC guidelines. Most of the groups mentioned in the CDC guidelines will be vaccinated by April, with the rest of the general population expected to receive the medicine beginning in April.
7. How will I be notified when it’s my time to get vaccinated?
The state says it will clearly communicate what phase the state overall and individual counties are in so people will know when it’s their turn.
Information should be displayed on the DOH vaccine webpage and county health department websites.
DOH and counties are currently disseminating information through public relations and law enforcement employees and are working with individual employers with large numbers of essential workers to prepare for Phase 1B.
For Pennsylvanians 75 and older, individuals (or someone on their behalf) will be able to register online or by a telephone call-in line with DOH so they can be notified directly when they’re able to get vaccinated, though the state is still working on plans for an appointment sign-up system.
County officials are still working on plans to reach people in the much larger and disparate groups of Phase 1B.
Teachers and law enforcement officers will most likely be notified through their employers. Additional outreach will be done through partners and community groups to reach eligible individuals once the state is ready to begin Phase 1B vaccinations, Levine said in a previous interview.
Situations are likely to differ by county.
8. Where will I get the vaccine?
Many individuals in later priority groups and the general public will likely get the vaccine as they get flu shots — at a health care provider or a pharmacy location.
For Phase 1B, there may still be some large regional vaccination sites for workers, but there also will be employer-based vaccine clinics for essential worker populations and vaccines available for high-risk groups at local clinics and pharmacies.
Employers with essential workers will be notified when vaccines become available.
For adults 75 and older not vaccinated at long-term care facilities, the DOH and local officials are working on a range of options, Levine said.
These could include launching mobile vaccine clinics for homebound individuals and rapid response teams and allocating doses to pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens statewide.
By the time the vaccine hits the general public after the priority groups, distribution should be widespread at places like pharmacies and health care providers.
9. How will I prove which group I’m in?
Levine said for individuals 75 and older in Phase 1B and 65 and older in Phase 2, they likely will just need to show their driver’s license or other identification to prove their age to get the vaccine.
Essential workers likely will need to be attend an employer-based vaccination clinic or, if at a pharmacy or doctor’s office, show their badge or proof that they’re an essential worker.
It will become more difficult for individuals to prove their place in the line once later phases begin. For those with medical conditions (Phase 2), Levine does not expect they’ll need to bring proof, but vaccination may be taking place through providers that treat them already.
10. How can I find vaccine information?
Although information is hard to find now, the state says that will change.
DOH plans to post vaccine locations similarly to how it does COVID-19 test sites.
Vaccine sites also will be listed on vaccinefinder.org eventually.
Looking ahead, Levine anticipates a more standardized approach to providing information and clear instructions on when and where individuals can get vaccinated.