PA is Set to Expand Vaccination Eligibility Following Challenges

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Brianna Gountis

Staff Writer

As we pass the one-year mark of the Covid-19 pandemic, vaccinations have become our best hope for a healthy and normal life.

With three vaccines approved by the FDA, vaccine supply has been abundant! 

But there seems to be a distribution shortage.

Vaccine distribution turned out to be a challenge for state governments across the U.S. and each state has taken eligibility and distribution into their own hands.

In Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf created a tiered system that made the vaccine available to the most vulnerable individuals first.

This group included healthcare workers, educators, elderly citizens, and those with health conditions that made them more vulnerable to the effects of the virus.

Make-shift vaccination sites have sprung up in many communities, but it has also been a struggle to find those able to administer the shots.

Despite these rather strict restrictions, securing a vaccine appointment was still a struggle for many, and the rollout was not always seamless.

Many drove over an hour for appointments, and many reported cancellations and delays.

In February there was a miscommunication between suppliers and distributors that caused over thousands of second doses to be given as first doses and delayed second dose appointments across the state.

There were also concerns about a shortage of workers to give the shots.

At ESU, many nursing students stepped up to give back to their communities and save lives.

“I signed up because I was interested as a way to get experience and also give back to the community,” said David Akinwande, a Nursing student at ESU, “I am just grateful to be able to be in the position to help in any way I can.”

According to WNEP, Akinwande has personally distributed about 100 doses.

Many other ESU nursing students volunteered for training and have been certified to give the shots.

These volunteer students have allowed vaccination sites in the East Stroudsburg community to expand hours and boost the number of vaccines distributed.

With the help of these students and many others vaccination efforts have been fairly successful across the state.  As of April 3, 33.5 percent of eligible Pa. residents had received the first dose of the vaccine.

This sounds like a rather small portion, but according to the CDC, Pa. ranks 5th in total doses distributed in the U.S.

Overall, 1.92 million Pa. residents have been fully vaccinated and more than 5 million doses have been administered.

These statistics do not include the city of Philadelphia, which has been designated as its own vaccine jurisdiction area and has over 278,000 fully vaccinated residents.

With these accomplishments in mind, Gov. Tom Wolf has rolled out a new plan to open vaccine eligibility to a greater audience throughout April.

On April 5, vaccine appointments became available to individuals in group 1B. This includes essential workers such as postal workers, grocery workers, those that work in contact with the elderly, and more.

In just another week on April 12, group 1C will become eligible.

The following week, April 19, the vaccine will be available to every Pa. resident over the age of 16.

Group 1C includes all essential workers not listed in 1A or 1B. These include those in transportation, sanitation, food service, etc.

Spacing these rollouts so close together creates the risk for chaos, but vaccination rollout has been relatively smooth for Pa. this far, and we can be hopeful that it will continue.

More eligibility means more vaccines, and more vaccines means more return to normalcy. Pa. and ESU are working hard to turn the corner on this pandemic as safely and effectively as possible.

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