Pa. teachers expected to move into Phase 1A of state vaccine rollout as Johnson & Johnson vaccine approved

Vaccination Frustration

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The rollout of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has begun nationwide. Not only will it increase vaccine allotment, but fully vaccinate people faster because of its single dose.

A letter by Pennsylvania state Rep. Timothy O’Neal (R-Washington), member of the state’s COIVD-19 Vaccine Task Force, sent to Republican House members, stated that within the next couple of days, Governor Wolf will announce that teachers pre-K through 12 — both public and private — will move into Phase 1A.

The letter also states that PEMA and the Pennsylvania National Guard will be using intermediate units across the Commonwealth as clinics, specifically for teachers in early March. O’Neal also states that the move must come with a requirement for in-person instruction.

Pennsylvania State Education Association has been calling on policymakers to prioritize access to the vaccine for teachers and school employees.

“We are encouraged by recent news reports suggesting that a plan is in the works to accomplish this goal. Such a plan would be extraordinarily good news for the health and safety of everyone in our schools,” said Rich Askey, President of PSEA.

O’Neal’s letter also stated that Pennsylvania is expected to get an initial shipment of 94,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The Governor’s office and the Pennsylvania Department of Health did not confirm what was written in the letter but said it hopes to announce details later this week.

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“The more people or the more entities that are manufacturing this vaccine, supply is inevitably going to go up,” said Erik Hefti, Executive Director of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology.

The three vaccines now in use come less than one year since Pennsylvania recorded its first COVID-19 case.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine brings a lot to the table. It’s the only vaccine that requires a single-dose. However, the vaccine’s effectiveness of 85% against severe cases dropped to 66% when moderate cases were brought into trials. From a logistic standpoint, it can be stored longer and doesn’t require ultra-low temperatures.

“All of those factors will continue to bode well for the vaccination efforts in Pennsylvania which have struggled,” Hefti said.

Jenece Studt has become frustrated trying to find a vaccine for herself and her 79-year-old mother. Despite losing family and friends to COVID-19, she’s remained optimistic, especially with the addition of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“Whatever vaccine becomes available to me, that’s the one I will get,” Studt said. “I’m excited about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.”

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