The Lead

Pa. to expand COVID-19 vaccine distribution to more people

By: - January 19, 2021 1:12 pm

(Sylvia Owusu-Ansah, an emergency department physician at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, receives Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, Mon., 12/14/20)

People aged 65 and older and anyone over the age of 16 with certain medical conditions will be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine sooner, state health officials said Tuesday.

The changes were made to reflect changes in federal guidance, officials said during an online briefing with journalists on Tuesday afternoon. Before the change, the vaccine had been going to health care workers and nursing home residents.

Citing state Health Department guidance, PennLive reported Tuesday that people between the ages of 16 and 64 with the following high-risk conditions are now eligible for the vaccine:

  • Cancer
  • chronic kidney disease
  • COPD
  • Down Syndrome
  • Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant or from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Smoking
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus

As of midday Tuesday, the Health Department had confirmed 5,341 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total to 777,186 in all 67 counties since the start of the pandemic. The agency announced 77 new deaths, for a total of 19,467 since the start of the pandemic.

Statewide, there were 4,582 patients hospitalized and 950 patients in hospital intensive care units, the Health Department said in a statement. The statewide positivity for the week of Jan. 8 to Jan. 14 was 12.7 percent.

Earlier in the day on Tuesday, the incoming Biden administration announced that it had named state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine as its pick for assistant health secretary, putting Levine on track to become the first openly transgender person to be named to a cabinet-level position

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