The federal government is beginning to vaccinate nursing home workers and residents in Pennsylvania against the coronavirus.
As part of the federal coronavirus response dubbed Operation Warp Speed, the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine is available through a partnership with Walgreens and CVS, said Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine.
Nursing homes have been hit especially hard by the virus. Older people are more susceptible to its worst outcomes, and close quarters make it easier to spread. At least 8,470 deaths from COVID-19 in Pa. — more than half — were among nursing home residents. More than 51,400 residents and 9,200 long-term care workers have tested positive for COVID-19.
While nursing homes are the priority, next week other types of long-term group residences also will have access to the vaccine, Levine said at a news conference Monday. Residents will not be required to get vaccinated.
She emphasized that it’s a federal program and the state’s role is limited. However, the state health department will provide regular updates on which facilities have gotten access to the vaccine on its website.
The effort comes weeks after the state began to vaccinate frontline health care workers such as doctors and nurses. More than 72,000 people have been vaccinated so far, health department data shows.
Levine noted that for each person who gets a vaccine, a second dose is reserved for that person, since two doses are required for it to be effective.
Cases remain high across the commonwealth. The state is under orders that ban indoor dining, bar school sports and set limits on business capacities through Jan. 4.
Levine cautioned people to remain vigilant in protecting themselves against the virus. She said she’s “hopeful for late spring, maybe early summer” for vaccines to be available to the general public.
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