Pennsylvania makes essential workers eligible for vaccine

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FILE – In this Jan. 18, 2021, file photo, a vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19 is prepared at a vaccination center of the 3rd district, in Paris. Japan’s COVID-19 vaccinations are beginning Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, after the government granted belated first approval to a shot co-developed by Pfizer Inc. that the United States and many other countries started using two months ago.(AP Photo/Francois Mori, File)

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania expanded eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine to essential workers in a range of industries on Monday, one week before it plans to make the shot available to everyone aged 16 and older.

Workers in transportation and logistics, construction, public health, public safety, finance, legal services, media and several other industries in Phase 1C of the state’s vaccine rollout became eligible to sign up for the vaccine. State officials have said the newly population totals between 1.3 million and 1.7 million people.

Most states have already made adults universally eligible for the vaccine. Gov. Tom Wolf said the state is taking a more gradual approach in hopes of avoiding the kind of bottleneck that occurred when Pennsylvania expanded vaccine eligibility to everyone aged 65 and older in January.

Philadelphia, which receives its vaccine allotment directly from the federal government, also made more people eligible on Monday.

President Joe Biden has set April 19 as the deadline for states to make all adults eligible to sign up to be vaccinated.

About 39% of Pennsylvania’s population of 12.8 million has received at least one vaccine dose, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

State health officials have said that vaccine hesitancy will soon become a bigger challenge than lack of supply. The state says it is planning to send mobile vaccination units to minority and underserved communities.

Pennsylvania is racing to vaccinate as a spring surge in new infections appeared to show signs of plateauing.

Daily coronavirus cases have risen more than 20% over the past two weeks to an average of more than 4,300 per day, but the rate of increase has slowed, according to data from Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

Hospitalizations are up 50% over the past three weeks, according to the state Department of Health. Deaths attributed to COVID-19 have remained steady, averaging about 30 per day across the state.

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