During meetings with state officials in January, PHLP learned of the following helpful information regarding the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Pennsylvania.
First, following direction from the federal government, Pennsylvania has increased the reimbursement rate for the administration of the vaccine. The state released a bulletin on January 26, 2021 announcing this decision and containing the procedure codes that go with the vaccines.
Approximately 631,000 individuals in Pennsylvania have been vaccinated as of January 27, 2011, which is about 5.5% percent of Pennsylvania’s total population. Also as of this date, Pennsylvania had administered about 47% of the vaccine it was given by the federal government.
There are many different entities administering the vaccine across the state, including hospitals, federally qualified health centers, and pharmacies. The vaccine is being administered in a phased approach, and Pennsylvania is currently in Phase 1A, the first phase. Health care personnel, people age 65 and older, and those with certain underlying health conditions are now being vaccinated during Phase 1A by hospitals and federally qualified health centers (FQHCs). Long-term care facility residents and their staff are being vaccinated as part of Phase 1A through state and federal pharmacy partnerships with Rite-Aid, Topco, CVS, and Walgreens.
PHLP is pleased that the state has prioritized vaccinating people with certain underlying health conditions. This promotes health equity, since those with underlying conditions tend to have lower socioeconomic status and include a higher percentage of racial and ethnic minorities.
Also included in Phase 1A are individuals who provide home and community-based services (HCBS) to seniors and persons with disabilities, including both paid and unpaid care. For example, parents caring for kids who are medically fragile, as well as caregivers for the roughly 100,000 adults in the Community HealthChoices (CHC) waiver receiving HCBS. With the inclusion of these individuals in Phase 1A, the state has recognized that those who are unpaid caregivers of those populations need the vaccine, and yet may have difficulty getting it without any affiliation with a home care provider or hospital system. The state has a new Caregiver Letter, that can be downloaded here, for vaccination sites that might require proof of eligibility from unpaid caretakers.
PHLP has heard from many individuals facing difficulty getting an appointment for a vaccine. To address this access issue, the state will work with FQHCs to set aside a certain percentage of vaccines to be given to non-affiliated health care workers, which would include these direct care workers and parents of children and adults with special needs who are not working for a hospital or health care system and who do not otherwise have ready access to a vaccine.
We will continue to monitor the vaccine roll-out in Pennsylvania and provide updates. For more information about the vaccine and Pennsylvania’s distribution plan, visit the Department of Health’s COVID-19 Vaccine page.