HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Governor Tom Wolf announced a new vaccine initiative on Tuesday, August 10. Commonwealth employees in state health care facilities and high-risk congregate-care facilities will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by September 7.

According to the press release, approximately 25,000 employees working in 24-hour-operated state facilities, including state hospitals, state homes for people with intellectual disabilities, veterans homes, community health centers, and state correction facilities, will be impacted by the initiative.

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The announcement comes nearly two weeks after President Joe Biden called on “state, territorial, and local governments” to provide $100 payments to newly vaccinated Americans as an incentive to boost vaccination rates.

“These individuals are often our most vulnerable Pennsylvanians who are unable to leave these facilities and rely on the direct care of the staff. We want our residents and their loved ones to have peace of mind that we are doing everything we can to keep them safe,” Gov Wolf said. “It is our responsibility to ​do our part to protect our most vulnerable neighbors and stop the spread of this highly contagious virus.”

The Wolf administration also announced a vaccine incentive for state employees under the governor’s jurisdiction. On October 1, all vaccinated state employees are eligible for an additional 7.5 to 8 hours of paid time off.

Prior to this announcement, neither state nor local leaders have announced any financial incentives for Pennsylvanians to get the vaccine. instead, officials have pointed to the rising number of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations as a result of the highly contagious Delta variant.

As previously reported by abc27 News, such an incentive could cost approximately $386 million to fully vaccinate all Pennsylvanians aged 18 years and older.

Biden has previously stated that localities can use money from his COVID relief law to pay for the incentive programs. The American Rescue Plan allocated $350 billion to states, territorial, and local governments in the form of the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds Program, according to the Treasury.

“Pennsylvania has had a lot of success in our vaccination efforts, but 63% is not the goal,” Gov. Wolf said. “Sixty-three percent still leaves far too many eligible Pennsylvanians unvaccinated, which puts their communities at risk. Vaccines are free, available, and effective. I encourage every eligible Pennsylvanian who hasn’t gotten vaccinated to sign up today.”

Dr. Graham Snyder with UPMC says the COVID vaccine is a crucial tool but not the only one.

“To respond to this pandemic, it’s not just vaccine as important of a role as the vaccine has, we have to keep masking and distancing,” Dr. Graham Snyder, medical director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology at UPMC said.

Snyder says the delta variant will not be the last and expects the virus to continue to evolve globally.

“We’re facing a pandemic that will be with us for some time and by some time, I mean it will be with us for years,” Snyder said.

For more information and to find a vaccination site near you, visit the Vaccine Finder here.