As Demand For Vaccines Within Phase 1A Slows, Penn Highlands Begins Planning For Next Phases

Mar 30, 2021

People who meet Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 vaccination eligibility guidelines under the state’s 1B and 1C phases can now sign up for waitlists to get shots from Penn Highlands Healthcare. 

Although Pennsylvania has not released a timeline for its phased vaccine rollout plan, some providers, like Penn Highlands, are opening up waitlists for the next phases. Providers making those preparations say they want to get ahead. 

The health system, which has six rural hospitals in north central Pennsylvania, said it will begin calling patients on the 1B and 1C waitlists as soon as the state announces a move forward from the current phase 1A.

Penn Highlands Chief Operating Officer Mark Norman said they have administered more than 56,000 doses in the area. And while thousands of those eligible now have not yet gotten COVID-19 vaccines, demand is slowing.

“We’re starting to see a decrease in the interest of people in our area in getting the vaccines,” Norman said during a media conference call Tuesday.

The hospital said it’s observing an uptick in COVID-19 cases, a widespread trend across Pennsylvania and the U.S. According to a nationwide evaluation by the New York Times of metro areas with the greatest number of new cases, relative to their population, DuBois, where Penn Highlands is headquartered, ranks 11th. That’s based on cases over the past two weeks.

The state Department of Health said it’s focusing on getting the more than 4 million Pennsylvanians eligible for phase 1A to schedule appointments by March 31. 

“The state is well on its way to completing 1A while moving forward with plans to vaccinate those under the remaining phases of our vaccine plan,” DOH Deputy Press Secretary Maggi Barton said in an email. 

Barton said the department wants to meet the aggressive goal set by President Biden. Biden has said he wants everyone to be eligible to sign up for a vaccine by May 1.