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Pa. hopes for J & J vaccine approval next week

The good news is that more vaccine is on the way.

Department of Health Senior Advisor for COVID-19 Response Lindsey Mauldin said during a Friday media briefing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine could be approved next week.

“We are waiting guidance from the FDA and CDC as this vaccine nears its emergency authorization. No allocations decisions are going to be finalized until after that emergency use authorization has been granted,” Mauldin said.

“Once that is, or if it is granted and approved, we’ll be working with the legislative task force and our partners on the ground to review determinations on allocations hopefully next week.”

More good news is that the brief second-dose vaccine shortage isn’t a problem anymore.

“All second doses are secure,” Mauldin said. “There was a delay, of course, because of that allocation issue and the weather, so we’ll be continuing to work with providers to make sure they get those second doses.”

The bad news is, although there was an increase in vaccine supply recently, there is simply still not enough of it available.

“The vaccine allocations are definitely changing in Pennsylvania, this week we saw 40,000 more doses allocated to Pennsylvania than last week, which is a huge jump,” added Mauldin.

Pennsylvania is still in Phase 1A of the vaccine rollout plan. Months ago, the initial timeline for all Pennsylvanians to be vaccinated was the summer of 2021. That might not be the case anymore.

“I don’t think we’re putting out estimates at this point. I think we’re sticking to our goal of summer. I know we’re working with 1A, that is our focus at this time,” Mauldin said.

“Again, we’ve seen delays come through due to the weather and some of these allocation issues. I think we need to be realistic and where we’re at this time of year. I think we’re still shooting for everyone by the summer, but ultimately, we’re working through 1A and that’s our priority.

However, Mauldin noted that 79,000 vaccinations were administered statewide on Thursday.

“We continue to work with our partners at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management agency, and one thing I want to remind you of, is that we are seeing more vaccines come into the Commonwealth every week. Once that occurs, we will be able to project a little more easily what the timeline is.”

There has been recent buzz about teachers getting vaccinations. However, Mauldin said not all teachers are currently eligible to get vaccinated.

“First, I just want to say teachers and many others play an important role in our communities - and as a mother I can say that firsthand,” Mauldin said.

“Teachers who are over 65, or have an underlying medical condition are eligible now. However, again, it’s important to note how extremely low the vaccine supply has been. We’re continuing to follow the CDC’s recommendations, which has been to get the vaccine out as efficiently as possible, which prioritize the most vulnerable to serious illness.”

Mauldin noted that none of the capacity guidelines in regard to restaurants or venues are changing at the moment. Additionally, Mauldin added those who travel out of state are still required to be tested ­- even if vaccinated.

“We’re continuing to look at those mitigation orders with our partners … we’ll continue to look at those as more vaccine becomes available and as we roll through this distribution strategy. At this point, we’re really just focused on that vaccination distribution.”