A Look at the COVID-19 Vaccination Program in Pennsylvania

By Senator Dan Laughlin

After nearly a year of living under the conditions — and addressing the threats — created by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are finally seeing some positive steps as the nation and the Commonwealth work to provide vaccinations against the virus.

Like most of you, I have many questions and few direct answers as to when the vaccines will be widely available to the general public. I am closely monitoring the updates provided by the state Department of Health (DOH) as the roll out of the vaccines continues and increases.

Initially the DOH limited the first shipment of the vaccines to immunizations of frontline individuals, such as first responders and health care works – especially those in nursing home settings. Also given priority were Pennsylvanians ages 75 and over.

Those individuals are considered to be the most susceptible to contract the COVID-19 virus and deemed to have the highest risks for tragic results if they are infected.

As shipments of the vaccine continued to arrive in-state, the DOH updated its vaccine distribution phase on January 19 to include those ages 65 and over and those with serious pre-existing medical conditions such as cancer, chronic kidney disease, cardiac conditions and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

To be clear, the General Assembly has played no role in developing the state’s distribution plan, so I have had no input on how these phases are established. Usually, I learn of them at about the same time as they are presented to the general public.

Certainly, I support the vaccination efforts and am hopeful that they will be stepped up as more doses arrive in Pennsylvania and additional vaccines by other companies receive federal approval for distribution. Updated information about Pennsylvania’s distribution plan is available online at: https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/disease/coronavirus/Vaccine/Pages/Vaccine.aspx.

Even as the distribution plans were announced, I was contacted by several local residents who wanted to know about immunization sites – and to express their displeasure about the lack of availability of the vaccine at many of those posted locations.

Again, this is being handled by the DOH and is not controlled by the General Assembly. The DOH is directing Pennsylvanians to a web page (https://www.pa.gov/guides/get-vaccinated/) to determine if they are eligible for the vaccine and to find out where immunizations are available.

Finally, some people have expressed concerns and do not want to be immunized. The vaccine is not required, but some employers and businesses could impose special safety requirements for those choosing not to be vaccinated. 

In closing, I encourage local residents to visit my website, www.senatorlaughlin.com, and my Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/senatorlaughlin/, to keep up to date with state government news – including the state budget — and learn more about state services and agencies.

Contact:         Matt Azeles                 mazeles@pasen.gov

Back to Top