Pa. coronavirus update: 50% of adults fully vaxxed, Wolf renews disaster declaration

Nurse Monique Bourgeois, left, administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to educator Diane Kay at a vaccination site setup for teachers and school staff at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa., Monday, March 15, 2021.

Nurse Monique Bourgeois, left, administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to educator Diane Kay at a vaccination site setup for teachers and school staff at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa., Monday, March 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

More than 50% of Pennsylvania adults are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 but health officials are not hitting the brakes on vaccine rollout and are determined to overcome what they call “soft” vaccine hesitancy.

Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam estimates Pennsylvania will have almost 70% of adults fully vaccinated in the next three to four weeks.

But she expects community organizations will be key in getting the vaccine to hard-to-reach residents who are apathetic about the process or find it inconvenient. These partners will also be key for helping residents understand the vaccine is safe and effective.

“From here on in, each shot is going to be hard-earned and it’s not a challenge that we’re going to shy away from, but it is going to be one that we do with our community-based partners at all costs,” she explained during a COVID-19 update.

Beam says partners like Walmart, Walgreens, Costco, and RiteAid, have focused on getting doses to communities with low vaccination rates. Walk-in appointments and community-hosted events, she said, have also helped vaccinate those who are hard to reach.

With Pfizer approved for emergency use for teens 12 through 15, Beam said the commonwealth is relying on partners to reach those young people.

Pennsylvania expects to use what it calls a hub and spokes model for distribution.

Providers with experience dealing with the Pfizer vaccine will act as a hub, breaking out trays of 11-hundred doses among pediatricians and other local providers who represent the spokes.

Partners will also be working with entire school districts and individual schools interested in hosting vaccine clinics for their students.

Beam’s update on the state of vaccine rollout comes as Gov. Tom Wolf renewed the commonwealth’s disaster declaration.

“The disaster declaration allows more medical professionals to administer vaccines, ensures families harmed financially by the pandemic have access to healthy food through SNAP benefits, and ensures Pennsylvania counties and businesses remain eligible for federal disaster recovery dollars,” he said in a statement.

The extension comes as voters elected to curtail the governor’s powers in declaring disaster declarations.

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