It's uncertain how the expanded rollout will work given the slow pace of vaccinations so far and limitations on supplies.By Nicole Ford

HARRISBURG (KDKA/AP) – Phase 1A in Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 vaccination plan is expanding to align with federal guidelines, Deputy Health Secretary Cindy Findley announced Tuesday.

Phase 1A, which before included long-term care facility residents and health care workers, now includes anyone over the age of 65 and anyone ages 16-64 with serious medical conditions that make them more at risk for severe illness.

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“It will be challenging because we haven’t received additional vaccines doses,” Findley said.

The health department says these changes are effective immediately, but it’s uncertain how the expanded rollout would work given the slow pace of vaccinations so far and limitations on supplies.

“We are well aware we don’t have enough vaccine to meet the demand at this point,” Findley said at a media briefing.

Previously, people 75 years and older were in Phase 1B. People 64-74 and 16-64 with high-risk medical conditions were in group 1C.

The state is currently in Phase 1A while other states are already moving onto 1B and 1C. In New York City, people 65 and older are lining up at the Javits Convention Center to receive the coronavirus vaccine, and over in New Jersey, folks 75 and older are doing the same.

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“It will be taking several weeks to continue on to the other phases,” Findley said.

Before the announcement Phase 1A was expanding, Allegheny County said Tuesday morning there were still more than 2,000 organizations with 57,500 employees waiting to be vaccinated.

Findley says Phase 1A now includes 3.5 million people across the state.

Allegheny County asked for patience from people waiting to be vaccinated, saying the county has a “higher than average” number of health care workers because it’s home to so many health systems.

On top of that, the county said allocations of vaccine from the federal government fluctuate each week and they’ve been unable to receive larger amounts, making it take longer to get through Phase 1A.

Allegheny County Health Director Dr. Debra Bogen later in the afternoon on Tuesday said she agrees with the new guidance, but the county will prioritize the people originally on the 1A list first.

“In the coming weeks, the Health Department will announce its revised plans for an expanded vaccine rollout. These plans will prioritize reaching those residents 75 and older and those 65 and older with specific health conditions through large vaccination clinics, mobile clinics and pop up events,” Bogen said.

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The major expansion came amid word that the state’s top health official, Dr. Rachel Levine, is President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to be assistant secretary of health.

Levine became a familiar figure to many Pennsylvanians over the last 10 months of the coronavirus pandemic, explaining what the state was doing to combat the spread of the virus and begging residents to do their part by wearing a mask, washing their hands and staying away from each other.

There was no immediate word on her replacement. The governor’s office said it planned to make an announcement later in the week.

You can view the state’s vaccination plan online.

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