Pa. coronavirus update: Health officials say state is ready to provide boosters

In this March 3, 2021, file photo, the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is held by pharmacist Madeline Acquilano at Hartford Hospital in Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

In this March 3, 2021, file photo, the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is held by pharmacist Madeline Acquilano at Hartford Hospital in Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Ask us about COVID-19: What questions do you have about the coronavirus and vaccines?

Pennsylvania health officials on Tuesday ordered COVID-19 vaccine providers to spin up operations ahead of an expected federal booster shot approval.

The order means providers will have to ensure they have online and telephone appointment schemes, as well as walk-in services. They must also coordinate with aging and medical assistance organizations.

Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam said the bottlenecks that slowed the initial rollout of vaccine have been overcome, with supply no longer being the issue.

“While we cannot begin administering booster shots until we have formal approval from and guidance from the CDC, we can assure you that first we have the vaccine available in Pennsylvania, and second providers are ready to start administering boosters as soon as we have the CDC guidance,” Beam said.

The new orders are identical to those provided by the state during the initial vaccine rollout. Vaccine hesitancy and skepticism has since replaced supply and distribution issues as the primary roadblock.

Dr. Karen Krok of the Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center said of the 92 inpatients at her hospital, none are vaccinated.

“Of those that are currently being treated for COVID at Penn State Health Hospitals, a vast majority of them are actually unvaccinated,” she said. “So while there is absolutely a lot of talk about getting boosters or getting the third dose, it’s very important to remember that it’s never too late to get your first dose of your COVID vaccine.”Acting Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson explained boosters are especially useful for those with compromised immune systems who may not have mounted a robust enough immune response to initial doses.

People with healthy immune systems should also get the booster, she said, because studies indicate the vaccine-provided immunity wanes over time.

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal