Secretary Letter: COVID-19 Vaccine Update

Secretary Letter: COVID-19 Vaccine Update

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Good afternoon Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) Stakeholders,

I hope this message finds you and your loved ones well during this unique holiday season. I wanted to take the opportunity to address a much anticipated and historic aspect of supporting Pennsylvanians through the pandemic – the long-awaited arrival of the first COVID-19 vaccines.

As I am sure you are aware, the commonwealth received its first allotment of COVID-19 from Pfizer on Monday of this week. As detailed in the Department of Health’s interim vaccine distribution plan, the first priority group to be vaccinated is our Pennsylvania hospital workers who are directly caring for COVID-19 patients. As more vaccine doses become available, the Department of Health will continue to ensure that they arrive at the designated enrolled hospital and health-care systems throughout the commonwealth or the established vaccine distribution partners. These sites will then administer vaccinations to the groups identified in the current distribution plan.

I want to take a moment to reiterate two very important aspects of the vaccine distribution:

  1. At this time, there is a very limited supply to meet the demand of Pennsylvanians who are currently eligible for the vaccine. However, myself and the entire Wolf Administration want to assure each of you, your staff and coworkers, and your loved ones that all Pennsylvanians who would like to be vaccinated will have access to the vaccine. This is simply the first step in a vaccination process that will take months to complete.
  2. If you have taken the time to review the plan, you will see that there are still many details that need to be finalized and subgroups who need to be identified. The Department of Health has stated that the interim plan is very much a working document, and it will continue to be updated as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices identifies further priority populations. At this time, drug and alcohol treatment providers are referenced in the plan as eligible for vaccinations during phase 1b. It is also important to recognize that the “vaccination phases” will happen at their own pace throughout the commonwealth. For example, if vaccine distributors in the western part of the commonwealth vaccinate Pennsylvanians more quickly than those in the central area, then they will move through priority populations and “phases” more rapidly.

At this time, vaccination distribution planning remains very fluid due to key aspects of planning and preparation that are still outstanding. These aspects include the amount of vaccine dosages available to Pennsylvanians, which vaccine will be available, and which private/public partners have the storage capabilities and sheer manpower to host a vaccine distribution site.

I write today to express the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs’s commitment to each of you. We pledge to be transparent throughout the vaccine planning process when answering questions that include but are not limited to:

  • When treatment providers will be eligible for vaccinations;
  • How providers will receive notifications of vaccine availability; and
  • Where individuals need to be present in order to access their vaccination.

We are working closely with the Department of Health to provide information to you as quickly as possible, but I ask for your continued patience as the logistics are developed and finalized.

For the most up-to-date information on Pennsylvania’s vaccine distribution, I encourage each of you to regularly visit the Department of Health’s COVID-19 vaccine portion of their website as well as their news section, which provides updates on how many vaccine doses have arrived and where the vaccine has been received in Pennsylvania. Feel free to utilize the COVID-19 vaccine toolkit, which provides vaccine development background, facts, and graphics for your facilities and social media channels.

Thank you for your continued patience as more information becomes available and for your continued partnership in ensuring that all members of Pennsylvania’s drug and alcohol system remain safe.

Be well,

Jen Smith

DDAP Secretary


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