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Health, Science & Tech

Pennsylvania Sending COVID-19 Vaccines To More Providers

COVID-19 vaccine magee womens hospital.JPG
Isabelle Schmeler
/
90.5 WESA
People receive the COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic at Magee Womens Hospital in Oakland.

COVID-19 vaccines will be sent to more providers in Pennsylvania, widening the distribution network this week to include doctors, small pharmacies and others as part of its effort to overcome lingering hesitancy among residents who have yet to get the shot.

The Health Department said Wednesday it allocated more than 295,000 doses to 383 providers, up from 225 providers that received shipments last week.

The state is gradually adding providers after having directed the state's weekly vaccine allotment to hospitals, pharmacy chains and other larger providers that could swiftly administer the shots. As demand for the vaccine begins to slow, state officials said they are are shifting focus to hard-to-reach areas and populations.

“People who aren't sure about getting a vaccine can get information — and a vaccine — from their trusted health care provider. That does a lot to address the concerns about hesitancy,” Gov. Tom Wolf said Wednesday at a vaccine clinic in Washington County.

He said more providers will be added in coming weeks “as we keep moving out from big facilities” and “figure out how we can get closer to people, which means putting it in the hands of people you trust.”

Pennsylvania has administered first doses of COVID-19 vaccines to about 48% of its eligible population of everyone 16 and older. More than 5.2 million people have received at least their first dose.

Allegheny County’s daily coronavirus case counts have been falling over the past couple weeks

The decrease follows nearly two months of increases—partly sparked by more infectious variants, reports Sarah Boden.

The COVID-19 vaccine is likely the main reason, officials say. One-third of Allegheny County residents are fully vaccinated, and more than 20%partially vaccinated.

But Health Department director Dr. Debra Bogen says other factors are likely contributing. That includes some element of natural immunity, and Bogen notes, that the nearly 97,000- documented cases in the county are certainly lower than the actual figure.

“…Especially early on we didn’t test everybody for COVID-19. So we know that there were people who had cases, but we didn’t test,” Bogen said. “And there were a lot of asymptomatic people who didn’t have any symptoms, who would have never gotten tested.”

Bogen says the spring weather might also be playing a role. Warmer temperatures lead more people to socialize outside where the virus is less likely to spread.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said he supports the Pittsburgh Penguins’ plan for a spectator section limited to fans who are vaccinated against COVID-19.

The team’s president has petitioned the state to permit higher occupancy in the vaccinated section during games. Fitzgerald says other entertainment venues should consider the same policy:

“I know we’re considering that, and probably will do that, with our summer concert series at Hartwood Acres,” Fitzgerald said. “And they don’t start for another month or so. And by that point everyone will have access to vaccine[s].”

Children younger than 16 currently not eligible for the vaccine.