Are You 50 or Older? You Might Now be Eligible for the COVID Vaccine
Allegheny County is expanding eligibility for its vaccine distribution, under certain conditions.
Now that 50% of Allegheny County residents 65 and older have gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, it’s time for the Allegheny County Health Department to expand its eligibility requirements. Health Department Director Dr. Debra Bogen says that beginning Friday, March 19, people 50 and older who have certain health conditions, can get the vaccine at health department vaccination clinics. Those health conditions include:
- Chronic kidney disease
- Down Syndrome
- Heart conditions but not high blood pressure
- Sickle cell disease
- Type 2 diabetes
“We remain committed in our vaccination approach to serve the most at risk in our county first,” says Bogen. “By the end of the week, at least 50% of those county residents who are 65 years of age and older will have received at least one vaccine. Although we still have work to do serving this population, these data tell us we need to expand our eligibility requirements for vaccination.”
The decision follows the county’s announcement of three new vaccination distribution sites in Ross Township, the Hill District and Oakland.
While vaccine distribution increases, Bogen expressed concerned about a slight increase in COVID cases that has kept infection levels from dropping further. Bogen fears the county could be facing a spring surge because of the presence of COVID variants, which are more contagious than the original virus strain. She worries that more people are letting their guard down as public health restrictions relax.
“While I don’t expect the potential surge to be like the one we experienced this past winter, I am concerned,” she says. “Because about two-thirds of adult residents are not yet vaccinated, including about 50% of those 65 and older, many people in our community remain at risk. So I please ask that everyone remain cautious for another month or two while we get more people vaccinated.”
At 22.7%, Pennsylvania ranks 21st nationwide in the percentage of its population that has received at least one dose of the vaccine.
“The pace of vaccinations in Pennsylvania is accelerating each day,” said Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday. “We have made tremendous progress, but we know we have more work to do.”
Wolf says the state’s goal is to have everyone in Phase 1A scheduled so that it can expand to the next phase by early next month.
“The department is working with providers to schedule appointments by March 31 for everyone in 1A who wants one; moving to people in 1B at the beginning of April and working through 1B and 1C in April to open eligibility to everyone by May,” says state health department deputy press secretary Maggi Barton. “The exact timing of progression will depend on the availability of vaccine from the federal government.”