"We still need to wear a mask, we need to wash our hands and we need to social distance."By Andy Sheehan

HARRISBURG, Pa. (KDKA) – As healthcare workers in Pittsburgh received some of the first doses of the coronavirus vaccine, Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said it could be months until the general public is immunized, making mitigation efforts “now more important than ever.”

Dr. Levine said in a virtual press conference Monday that it could be months — possibly spring into summer — until manufactures can produce enough vaccine to immunize the general public.

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“Mitigation now is more important than ever, especially during these winter months. We still need to wear a mask, we need to wash our hands and we need to social distance. And we have to continue to take these steps until the majority of people in Pennsylvania have been vaccinated.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Health, which is directing allocations of the vaccine, says Pfizer will be delivering doses to 83 hospitals in 66 counties this week. But following CDC guidelines in three phases, it may be some time before you get yours.

Phase 1, when the supply of the vaccine is limited, will focus on people like healthcare personnel, first responders and people with high-risk conditions.

In Phase 2, when there’s a large number of doses available and supply can likely meet demand, people like critical workers and people with “vaccine access challenges” will be considered for immunization.

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In the final phase, when there’s likely sufficient supply and slowing demand, the general public can be vaccinated

“For the public at large, you can expect the vaccine roll out to happen in those phases that have been advised to us through the CDC. And the time of that will be how many doses and how many vaccines come,” said Dr. Graham Synder, UPMC’s medical director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology.

But how quickly the pharmaceutical companies can ramp up production and deliver the vaccines is an open question, and Dr. Levine is urging the public to remain vigilant in following coronavirus protocols.

“It could be months. It could be into spring and summer before we have enough vaccine from the pharmaceutical companies to immunize the general public,” Dr. Levine said.

UPMC concedes that some employees are mistrustful of the vaccine, so they are making getting vaccinated a voluntary decision. Still, the health care system believes the vaccine is safe and would like all of its employees to be inoculated.

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You can read Pennsylvania’s full vaccination plan online.