Despite increased vax appointment availability, Pa. to remain in phase 1A

Vaccinate PA

Tina Killebrew, a certified medical assistant, prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The makers of COVID-19 vaccines are figuring out how to tweak their recipes against worrisome virus mutations — and regulators are looking to flu as a blueprint if and when the shots need an update. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

YORK, Pa. (WHTM) — Waiting lists are shrinking. Call center volumes are slowing. Vaccine appointments are increasingly available. Does that mean it’s time to move to Phase 1B?

Not yet, Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam said Thursday, answering a question by abc27 News about whether the state was trying so hard to reach everyone who’s currently eligible that it’s slowing the overall vaccination process.

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Demand for the vaccine still exceeds the supply, Beam said. And anyway, she said, plenty of people in 1B — like teachers and daycare workers, and soon supermarket workers, law enforcement officers and firefighters — are becoming eligible.

So why not do “a quick flip of a switch,” in Beam’s words, and simply move into full Phase 1B?

“We don’t want to put pressure on the system like what happened when we had those over 65, and the 64-and-under with comorbidities, come in and put so much stress that really it was just standing in line for an appointment,” Beam said. “And we’re incrementally allowing these populations of frontline workers to get vaccinated that hopefully, we’ll be able, as a commonwealth, to transition into 1B quite swiftly as we have these populations handed in an orderly fashion.”

One way or another, she said, all adults in the state will be able to make appointments by May 1 — not necessarily be vaccinated by then, but know when they’ll get their first doses. People “don’t want to know that they’re number 1,000” on a list, she said. “They want to know when their first shot is going to get into their arms.”

Beam spoke in York alongside other state and York County leaders, announcing a new order requiring vaccine providers to coordinate more closely with entities to help eligible people who are having trouble getting appointments or have difficultly traveling to sites. These include Area Agencies on Aging (for seniors) and Medical Assistance Managed Care Organizations (MA MCOs) to help people such as Medicaid recipients.

“We know that COVID-19 has had a disparate impact on communities that experience poverty, where we know that racial and ethnic communities are disproportionately represented,” said Dr. Douglas Jacobs, chief innovation officer for the Department of Human Services, speaking at the event.

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