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I-Team: Major changes in PA vaccine rollout plan

HARRISBURG, DAUPHIN COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV)— The Pennsylvania Department of Health announced major changes today in its vaccination rollout plan.

Changes that many people say should have been made weeks ago.

The I-Team has been contacted by dozens of people in the last several weeks asking why older residents and those with preexisting conditions were not closer to the front of the line for the COVID-19 vaccine. Today they were moved up in that line.

The I-Team took part in a virtual news conference hosted by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Cindy Findley, the deputy Secretary of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and heads up the commonwealth’s COVID-19 vaccine task force.

She wasted no time in announcing "Effective today we are expanding the vaccination efforts of phase 1A to include anyone over 65 and people age 16 to 64 with serious medical conditions that make them more at risk to severe illness because of COVID-19."

Previously those two groups had been in phase 1C of the state’s vaccine rollout plan. Phase 1A, which was launched several weeks ago, provided vaccines for frontline healthcare workers and folks who live and work in nursing homes and assisted living centers.

The next phase 1B will include places like prisons. What's called congregate living areas. But some have expressed concern that the two groups that were moved up to phase 1A Tuesday should have been in that first tier from Day One. Eyewitness News posed this question to Findley: So the folks who have preexisting conditions who are now in 1A just so I'm clear on this, they were in 1C before. Was that part of the original federal plan or was Pennsylvania not following the plan and that's why these folks 16 to 64 and preexisting conditions were not at a higher tier level? Delineate that if you can?

"Good question. As we approach this we’ve advised that we are following the plan change and we are aligning ourself with federal government. We align our plan to adapt to that," Findley said.

Findley says that the federal government made the change last week. Eyewitness News asked her about plans to possibly open public vaccination sites like that which is being done with COVID-19 testing sites.

"So at this point we are looking at those options. Of course it is based on the amount of vaccine that we receive," Findley said.

The I-Team spoke with Dr. Jodi Lenko from Lehigh Valley Hazleton. She helps coordinate the health systems coronavirus treatment protocol. She advises everyone to contact with their healthcare providers.

"It’s important to know to keep up to date with your local healthcare professionals and with your primary care provider as well as keep up to date with news as things change because as you know sometimes the guidelines are changing," Dr. Lenko said.

And that’s exactly what happened Tuesday.

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