After receiving additional prioritization recommendations from the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) on December 22nd, today the Pennsylvania Department of Health released an updated COVID-19 Interim Vaccination Plan that will reflect those additional federal recommendations. The complete plan can be found here.
These federal recommendations have shifted the prioritization phases and provided additional detail on prioritized populations. Below is a summary of the updated Phases 1A, 1B, 1C (new) and 2. Full details including all CDC-designated essential industry categories are listed in the plan itself:
- Phase 1A remains centered around healthcare workers as defined by ACIP as paid and unpaid persons serving in health care settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials. These include, but are not limited to emergency medical service personnel, nurses, nursing assistants, physicians, dentists, dental hygienists, technicians, chiropractors, therapists, phlebotomists, pharmacists, health professions students and trainees, direct support professionals, clinical personnel in school settings or correctional facilities, contractual HCP not directly employed by the health care facility, and other persons when working in health care settings, such as regulatory staff who perform on-site assessments in hospitals and 1A long-term care facilities, long-term care ombudsmen, Older Adult Protective Services, Adult Protective Services, and Child Protective Services staff that are required to do on-site assessments in hospitals and 1A long-term care facilities, and volunteer personnel not directly involved in patient care but potentially exposed to infectious material that can transmit disease among or from health care personnel and patients.
- Phase 1B now includes all adults aged 75 and older, residents of non-1A congregate care facilities, and additional front-line essential workers, defined by CDC as “essential workers who perform duties across critical infrastructure sectors and maintain the services and functions that U.S. residents depend on daily and likely at highest risk for work-related exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, because their work-related duties must be performed on-site and involve being in close proximity (<6 feet) to the public or to coworkers”. These include, but are not limited to, law enforcement, fire/rescue personnel, PA National Guard not included in 1A, emergency services personnel, corrections officers and other staff of non-1A congregate care settings, public transit workers, grocery store workers, education workers, manufacturing workers, and childcare workers.
- A Phase 1C has been created to include adults aged 65-74, adults 18-64 with a serious underlying condition that puts them at increased risk if they contract COVID-19, and essential workers in critical industries not covered under 1B. Per ACIP guidance, these industries include, but are not limited to, water and wastewater, finance, information technology, energy, food service, and federal/state/county/local government. As with Phase 1B, CDC defines essential workers as those “who perform duties across critical infrastructure sectors and maintain the services and functions that U.S. residents depend on daily and likely at highest risk for work-related exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, because their work-related duties must be performed on-site and involve being in close proximity (<6 feet) to the public or to coworkers”.
- Phase 2: On December 22, 2020, the CDC adopted the recommendations of the ACIP to vaccinate any individual over the age of 16 who agrees and does not have a contraindication for vaccine. Note that at this time, only the Pfizer-BioNTech product is approved for those age 16 and 17.
The DOH’s goals while the vaccine supply remains limited are to maximize benefits and minimize harms caused by the virus, promote justice, mitigate health inequities, and promote transparency and prioritize populations accordingly. DOH continues to receive feedback on this plan regarding prioritization, and the CDC indicates an intention to publish additional information on essential workers. DOH will review and incorporate as necessary into future versions of the plan.
The revised plan as posted on the department’s website includes a feedback form for all interested parties to provide input to be considered by the Department of Health. This form helps to fulfill the administration’s goal of promoting transparency and making this dynamic process as inclusive as possible.