HAP's Latest News

Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan Unveiled

November 19, 2020

During a press conference today, Secretary of Health Rachel Levine, MD, announced that the state had made its COVID-19 Interim Vaccination Plan available for public review. The document outlines the logistics that will guide the state’s vaccination efforts, once the vaccines are ready.

The plan will be adapted as the situation changes, and a firm timeline for vaccination has yet to be determined. Not everyone will get the vaccine immediately, and the timing of vaccination will depend on the supplies and availability of the various vaccines that ultimately gain approval.

There will be three phases of vaccination:

  • Phase one will include health care workers, first responders, critical/essential workers, those aged 65 and older, and those who live in congregate care settings. The first distribution of phase one vaccines will go to hospitals; the second distribution of phase one will go CVS and Walgreens as part of a partnership with long-term care facilities
  • Phase two will occur when a larger number of vaccines are available. It will include anyone who should have been vaccinated during phase one, but was not; as well as those who are in vulnerable or high-risk populations
  • Phase three will occur when there is a sufficient supply of vaccinations to ensure that the entire population can access it

Secretary Levine stressed that, while some people may be alarmed by the name “Operation Warp Speed” and the quick timeline for development, the vaccines will have undergone rigorous testing and trials to ensure their safety and efficacy. The project is running quicker than a normal vaccine process because the federal government has provided resources to multiple pharmaceutical companies to develop their respective vaccines all at once—as opposed to the traditional, longer process, in which companies develop and test one vaccine at a time. The mass development helps to create a quicker process.

Pennsylvanians should know that the vaccines that are approved are developed by scientists and are safe for people to receive. So far, the trials for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have reported a high degree of effectiveness and relatively few (and mild) side effects.

Until a proven safe and effective vaccine is widely available, it remains important for Pennsylvanians to continue to do all the things they currently are doing to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including wearing masks, washing their hands, staying apart from others in different households, and minimizing the risk of getting the flu by receiving a flu vaccine today. The COVID-19 pandemic—and the measures necessary to mitigate its spread—will not end until enough people are vaccinated. Until then, there is a risk that it could continue to rapidly spread and causes spikes in hospitalizations and deaths.

During phase one with the vaccination of health care workers and subsequent efforts to reach all Pennsylvanians, hospitals will be a key public health partner in administering vaccinations. The hospital community also will continue to serve as a source of credible information as all Pennsylvanians have an opportunity to seek the COVID-19 vaccination. Pennsylvania hospitals stand ready to work with the Department of Health and other public health partners to ensure a safe vaccination process, as outlined in the plan.

For more information contact Robert Shipp, PhD, BSN, RN, NEA-BC, HAP’s vice president, population health and clinical affairs, or Brian Barth, HAP’s manager, emergency management.