Both Philadelphia and Montgomery County predicted Tuesday they might be able to begin offering coronavirus vaccinations to the second wave of recipients — likely essential workers and older seniors — as soon as February.
But the officials across the state and region say how quickly the vaccine becomes available to a wider pool of people is dependent on how quickly more doses arrive from the federal government, and the city’s top health official had some sobering news: If that pace doesn’t increase, it could be more than a year before all of Philadelphia is fully vaccinated.
The city is on track to receive about 19,000 doses a week from the federal government through January, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said.
“To be clear,” he said, “in a city of 1.5 million, this is not enough.”
New Jersey unveiled a website to let health-care workers preregister for inoculations, and Chester and Delaware Counties released vaccination plans and a form for people eligible for shots in the next phase. But questions about the speed at which people are able to be vaccinated — and when the general population will get the shots — continued to echo across the region.
“I would love nothing better [than] to be able to give an exact date,” Chester County Health Director Jeanne Casner said as she released the county’s vaccination plan. “It truly, truly depends on how quickly Chester County receives the vaccine doses.”
Across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and other states, health-care personnel and long-term care residents are being vaccinated in the current phase.
In Pennsylvania, the next phase, known as 1B, includes essential workers and people 75 or older. The third phase will offer shots to a wider pool of workers, people with high-risk medical conditions, and residents 65 and older. While the state is following federal guidance for the rollout, Philadelphia has its own vaccination plan and could define the phases differently. City officials said Monday they were still working on the plan.
About 39% of the vaccine doses delivered to the city had been administered as of Sunday. The city is expecting to receive a combined 19,250 doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines per week, Farley said.
“We’ve been told that these numbers … are the same amounts that we’re going to get per week, weekly, through January,” he said. “So we certainly hope that the delivery of the vaccine to us increases.”
The first wave of vaccination doses has been given primarily to health-care workers, and as of Sunday 28,476 people were reported to have been immunized at Philadelphia health facilities. But African Americans and other nonwhite racial groups appear to be underrepresented so far, Farley said.
Of those people vaccinated in the city so far for whom demographic data were available, 43% were white, 12% were Black, 10% were Asian American, and 10% reported their race as “other.” For an additional 19%, race was unknown.
Farley said he was working with chief medical officers at Philadelphia hospitals to address the disparity.
“We believe that they have less trust in the medical care system. Let me say that that’s completely understandable given the history of how African Americans have been treated in this country,” Farley said. “But it is still a problem, because we know that African Americans are more likely to get COVID and are more likely to die of COVID.”
New Jersey had administered 111,161 vaccines by Monday evening — some of them second doses — out of 405,825 total delivered to the state. Vaccination locations also expanded, with health-care workers able to get inoculations at 39 ShopRite pharmacies, including six locations in Burlington, Camden, and Gloucester Counties.
The ShopRite sites were chosen in coordination with the New Jersey State Department of Health and offer shots only to those eligible in the first phase of vaccinations. Shots are available by appointment only.
Delaware had been sent more than 50,000 doses, but only 15,460 people had received the first dose of the vaccine as of Tuesday morning, the state said. Officials said that the shipments were sometimes short of what they expected to receive and that the holidays had also slowed distribution.
“We’re hoping at some point in the future we’ll start to actually receive more than we have planned for,” said Delaware Public Health Director Karyl Rattay. “And also, it would be nice if we had multiple weeks of projections of what we were going to receive, but we do our best with the information that we receive.”
Taking a step ahead of the state and other area counties, Chester and Delaware Counties on Tuesday released an online tool that will enable residents and workers to get notified when vaccine doses and appointments are available.
Available on Chester County’s website to both Chester and Delaware County residents, the survey lets participants sign up to receive information when the vaccine is available to them. Anyone who believes they qualify to be vaccinated during phase 1B can fill it out, but it is not required and does not register participants for an appointment. The counties will also use the survey to gauge how many people are interested in getting vaccinated.
A separate survey for health-care workers not affiliated with a hospital who need to be vaccinated in the first phase is available on the county’s website.
Chester County, which helps administer Delaware County’s coronavirus response, also plans to have vaccine locations throughout the county, eventually including large-scale vaccination sites, mobile and pop-up sites, and clinics at venues such as schools, banquet halls, and churches.
New Jersey also launched a website for vaccine preregistration on Tuesday, but officials said only health-care workers should use it for the time being. The site immediately began experiencing crashes and delays due to high traffic. It will be used for health-care personnel who won’t receive the vaccine at work.
The state will announce new phases of the vaccine rollout as the doses become available for essential workers, older adults, and other members of the public over the next few weeks and months, said Health Department spokesperson Donna Leusner. When that happens, residents who have signed up online will receive emails letting them know they can make appointments.
Pennsylvania also plans to launch a web portal to let people register for their shots, a state Health Department spokesperson said Tuesday.
Pennsylvania on Tuesday reported 8,818 additional confirmed cases of the coronavirus, a number officials said represented cases logged on Monday and some from Sunday, when the state data system was undergoing maintenance. The state also reported 185 new deaths.
The number of Pennsylvanians being treated for the virus in the state’s hospitals remains nearly double the spring peak of patients but slightly lower than the record highs from last month. On Tuesday, about 5,630 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, the state said, and 1,182 of them were in intensive-care units.
Pennsylvania has not recorded any cases of the new variant of the virus that has spread quickly in Britain and has since been located in several other countries and U.S. states, including New York, officials said Tuesday.
The state has sent samples from residents with the virus to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for analysis, said Michael Huff, the state’s director of testing and contact tracing, but he did not specify whether those were routine samples or suspected cases of the variant.
Philadelphia’s death toll surpassed 2,500, Farley announced Tuesday. The city reported 805 newly confirmed cases and 36 deaths. New Jersey reported 5,400 newly confirmed cases and 138 deaths.
Meanwhile, the virus continues to take a toll of the region’s social life. The St. Patrick’s Day Observance Association announced on its Facebook page Tuesday night that it had canceled its 2021 St. Patrick’s Day Parade and all events associated with it. The parade had been scheduled for March 14.
It is now the second year the parade has been canceled due to the coronavirus.
”We will continue with great enthusiasm to plan the 250th Saint Patrick’s Day Parade for March 13, 2022 where we will celebrate Saint Patrick, our Grand Marshal Michael J. Bradley, Jr., and the distinguished members of our Ring of Honor,” the association said.