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Pennsylvania: All adults eligible for vaccine on Tuesday

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

Pennsylvania will expand eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine to all adults beginning Tuesday, nearly a week ahead of schedule, state officials announced Monday.

The quicker rollout was enabled by “ongoing appointment availability” in many parts of the state, state health officials said, and comes as Pennsylvania grapples with a spring surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

“We need to maintain acceleration of the vaccine rollout, especially as case counts and hospitalization rates have increased,” Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement.

The state had expanded eligibility to essential workers in a range of industries on Monday, including those in transportation and logistics, construction, public health, public safety, finance, legal services and media. The new timetable discards that phased approach in favor of allowing everyone 16 and older who wants a shot to schedule one.

Most states have already established universal eligibility ahead of an April 19 deadline set by President Joe Biden. Wolf had said last week that the state was taking a more gradual approach in hopes of avoiding the kind of bottleneck that occurred when Pennsylvania rapidly expanded vaccine eligibility to everyone aged 65 and older in January.

At that time, supplies were low, Pennsylvania lagged behind other states in administering the doses it did get, and many residents were frustrated by their inability to get an appointment.

The state has since improved its vaccine rollout and moved up in the national rankings. About 39% of Pennsylvania’s population of 12.8 million has received at least one vaccine dose, 11th among the states, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

With 2.3 million residents already fully vaccinated and the supply crunch beginning to ease, state officials are concerned that vaccine hesitancy will soon become a bigger challenge. Rep. Tim O’Neal, R-Washington, a member of the state’s coronavirus task force, said Monday that supply has outstripped demand at several recent clinics in western Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania is racing to vaccinate as the recent surge in new infections appeared to show signs of plateauing.

Daily coronavirus cases have risen more than 20% over the past two weeks, to an average of more than 4,300 per day, but the rate of increase has slowed, according to data from Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

Hospitalizations, meanwhile, are up 50% over the past three weeks, according to the state Department of Health. Deaths attributed to COVID-19 have remained steady, averaging about 30 per day across the state.

Philadelphia, which receives its vaccine allotment directly from the federal government, also made more people eligible on Monday.

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