State official: Vaccine supply still lags behind demand

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

The number of COVID-19 vaccine doses Pennsylvania receives from the federal government each week has been increasing, state officials said Friday, but demand for the vaccine is still far outpacing the state's supply.

The state received 225,890 first doses and 180,610 second doses of the vaccine this past week, health officials said, which were increases of about 42,000 and 37,000 doses, respectively, over the previous week.

But of the more than 4 million people who are currently eligible for vaccination, only 1.6 million have been either partially or fully vaccinated, according to the state Department of Health.

"We know that right now, there simply is not enough vaccine for everyone who wants it," Lindsey Mauldin, a senior adviser for the state Department of Health, said in a news conference Friday.

Colleen Teevan, System Pharmacy Clinical Manager at Hartford HealthCare, administers the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for COVID-19 to healthcare worker Connor Paleski outside of Hartford Hospital, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, in Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Phase 1A of Pennsylvania's vaccine rollout plan includes people over 65, people with high risk health conditions, health care workers and those living in long-term care facilities.

The Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines for COVID-19 require two doses to be considered effective, which means Pennsylvania will need to administer more than 8 million doses before the state can move into phase 1B.

In York County, nearly 25,000 people have been partially vaccinated, and another 20,600 have been fully vaccinated, the state Department of Health reported. Combined, that's about 10% of the county's total population.

The state hit a snag recently when it was revealed that about 100,000 people would need to reschedule their appointments for the Moderna booster shot because some vaccine providers had used the booster shots as first doses.

There were also complications from winter storms that delayed the delivery of doses, Mauldin said.

But the state has allocated second doses for all of the people who had to reschedule their appointments in the past two weeks, Mauldin said, so everyone who's in line for a booster shot should be able to get one on time.

On questions of timing Friday, Mauldin had few answers.

She said the state hasn't relaxed its mitigation orders in light of the vaccine rollout, and she declined to say when the public could expect those orders to change.

Restaurants are still required to operate at reduced capacity for indoor dining, and travelers from out of state who have been vaccinated still need to get a negative COVID-19 test before coming to Pennsylvania. 

A temporary patient screening and testing area, for the COVID-19 coronavirus, is shown outside the Emergency Department at WellSpan York Hospital in York City, Thursday, March 12, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

And aside from restating the general goal of having everyone in the state vaccinated this summer, Mauldin said she couldn't give an estimate of when the state will move into Phase 1B, which will extend eligibility to teachers, clergy members and workers in grocery stores, factories and public transit, among other occupations.

"We are seeing more vaccines come into the commonwealth every week, and so as that continues to occur, we'll be able to project a little more easily what the timing looks like," she said.

Mauldin directed the public to use the "Your Turn" tool at the Department of Health website to check whether they're eligible for the vaccine. "Your Turn" will be available in Spanish, Chinese and German by next week, she said.

Vaccinations administered in Philadelphia County or at federal facilities, such as Veterans Health Administration or federal prisons, are not included in the state's vaccine data dashboard.

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