Highlands Health vaccine clinic

Mount Aloysuis College first year nursing student Madison Grove (right) gives Karen Zucco, 75, of Johnstown, her first Pfizer vaccine shot at the Highlands Health Clinic in Johnstown vaccine distribution event held Friday, March 12, 2021, at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Johnstown.

One Westmoreland County COVID-19 death was the eight-county region’s only additional fatality in Thursday’s update by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

The death was among 42 statewide, bringing Pennsylvania’s total to 25,327 deaths attributed to COVID-19.

Thursday’s report included 4,746 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 1,059,044 cases since the pandemic struck in March 2020.

Cambria County had 36 new cases, Somerset County had eight cases, Bedford County had four cases, Blair County had 20 cases, Indiana County had 25 cases, Clearfield County had 29 cases, Centre County had 56 cases and Westmoreland County had 130 additional cases.

Providers in the Health Department’s vaccine program have administered 5,905,787 total vaccine doses – the fifth-highest state in the nation.

There are now 2,125,826 people who are are fully vaccinated and another 1,810,828 who are partially vaccinated, meaning they have received one dose of a two-dose vaccine.

Those in the state’s Phase 1A and Phase 1B are now eligible to schedule vaccine appointments.

Eligible Pennsylvanians include all those age 65 and older, those age 16 to 64 who have significant health risks, those living in nursing homes and other congregate care settings and essential workers in health care, emergency services, law enforcement, education, manufacturing, churches and religious facilities, grocery stores, food and agriculture industries, the Postal Service, corrections and public transit.

Essential workers in Phase 1C will be eligible beginning Monday. They include those employed in transportation, water and wastewater, food service, housing construction, finance and banking, information technology, communications, energy, legal services, media and all branches of government.

Beginning April 19, all of those age 16 and older will be eligible.

As eligibility expands and vaccine supplies grow, the state is reaching out to those who continue to hesitate and have questions about safety.

“We are continuously working to provide information to the public about the COVID-19 vaccine to ensure everyone has the proper information to make a decision on their own,” Alison Beam, acting health secretary, said Wednesday during an event in Lehigh County.

“The vaccine is safe, effective and has gone through extensive clinical trials. Stopping a pandemic requires using all the tools available, and vaccines work with your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed.”

She was joined by Rabiul Chowdhury, founder of the Muslim Aid Initiative, a Philadelphia-based volunteer organization that has joined COVID-19 efforts throughout the pandemic and is now helping vaccine clinics and working to reduce vaccine hesitancy in the Muslim community.

“The purpose of the Muslim Aid Initiative is to disseminate accurate health information and resources to communities in the Greater Philadelphia region,” Chowdhury said.

“We are determined to keep our community strong and continue to protect the most vulnerable among us through education and service.” 

Randy Griffith is a health reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5057. Follow him on Twitter @PhotoGriffer57.

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