Officials scramble to accommodate expanded vaccine group

Written by on January 20, 2021

Officials scramble to accommodate expanded vaccine group

By Hayden Mitman

January 21, 2021

A nurse holds a phial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Guy’s Hospital in London, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020. U.K. health authorities rolled out the first doses of a widely tested and independently reviewed COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday, starting a global immunization program that is expected to gain momentum as more serums win approval. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, Pool)

Local health officials are scrambling to implement the expansion of the state vaccination program’s first phase. A recent order has made millions of more Pennsylvanians eligible to receive it, causing logistical challenges. 

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Pregnant women, smokers, and senior citizens over the age of 65 can now be vaccinated as part of group 1A. 

Kristin Wenrich is Bethlehem’s director of health. She says she was caught off guard by yesterday’s announcement. 

“The verification is going to be difficult. It’s easy to verify someone 65 years of age or over, but things on the list like smoking or obesity or COPD, some of those things are going to be difficult,” Wenrich says. 

“We were not anticipating that they would expand 1A. And, of course, this is a huge expansion,” Wenrich adds.

Previously, only around 750,000 state healthcare workers were eligible for phase 1 vaccines.
Now, more than 3.5 million Pennsylvanians are eligible. 

Allentown’s health director, Vicky Kistler, says the city will open a vaccination clinic at the Allentown Fairgrounds on Friday.

“Currently we are in the East Side Youth Center, a terrific community partner, but the venue is a little small,” Kistler says.

Applications for the vaccine are available online. Health officials say residents should expect to wait for an appointment since they are currently booked through the end of January. 

 You do not need to be a resident of Allentown or Bethlehem to sign up. To schedule an appointment for a vaccine, visit the Allentown and Bethlehem health department websites. 

Lehigh Valley Health Network announced its first COVID-19 mass vaccinations for people 75 and older will be held at Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom in South Whitehall Township. 

The drive-through clinic will operate 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Jan. 27, and only for  those with an appointment. 

The LVHN vaccination is free.

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