HARRISBURG – While senior citizens and other vulnerable populations remain the highest priority to have the option to take the COVID-19 vaccine, Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) expressed cautious optimism about a bipartisan task force effort to return students back to the classroom.
Under the updated guidelines, senior citizens and those with pre-existing medical conditions will continue to be prioritized for Pfizer and Moderna vaccines under a revised distribution plan that puts an emphasis on population, population over 65, infection rate, and COVID-19 death rate.
The task force also announced that teachers will eligible to receive the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine under their own separate program and will not be included in Phase 1A (senior citizens and those with pre-existing medical conditions). Teachers will not receive priority status nor will they receive vaccinations ahead of those in Phase 1A and are expected to return to the classroom for in-person instruction.
“Local seniors are very frustrated with the lack of coordination and scatter-shot approach to the vaccine rollout to date, and rightfully so. People should not feel like finding a vaccine is like trying to get the hottest toy for Christmas. This approach leads irritated senior citizens to call every pharmacy and health care provider in the hopes of obtaining a vaccine,” said Phillips-Hill, who submitted a letter to the Acting Secretary of Health, Alison Beam, seeking to limit the vaccine to eligible Pennsylvanians.
To date, more than twice as many out-of-state residents have received the vaccine compared to eligible residents from York County, according to the Department of Health COVID-19 dashboard.
The senator noted that she heard from several parents who cannot return to their job due to being forced to stay at home with children who have no option but remote learning. Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a substantial increase in the number of mental-health related visits for school age children from April through October last year compared to the same time in 2019.
“This move finally puts more coordination in place and addresses one of the biggest hurdles in getting back to normal: putting students back in the classroom so their parents can return to work and lives and livelihoods can be restored,” Phillips-Hill said.
“Seniors are having a difficult time obtaining the vaccine. They should not be competing with individuals in Maryland or other surrounding states to obtain a vaccine in their community,” she added.
Today’s announcement was made by the state COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force and Governor Tom Wolf. The Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last weekend authorized the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for emergency use. Pennsylvania will receive its doses this week.