US Expands Pfizer COVID Boosters, Opens Extra Dose to Age 16

The U.S. is expanding COVID-19 boosters, opening a third dose of Pfizer’s vaccine to people as young as age 16. The U.S. and many other nations already urge adults to get a booster to pump up their immunity months after initial vaccination. In the U.S., the Pfizer vaccine is the only option for children and teenagers. The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday cleared an extra dose for those ages 16 and 17, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rapidly endorsed a booster for those ages. It’s not clear if younger teens will need one.


Gov. Wolf: State Anticipates Returning K-12 School Mask Requirement to Local Leaders January 17, 2022

Monday November 8, 2021 at 2:08 PM
Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf today announced the intention to return the commonwealth’s K-12 school mask requirement to local leaders on January 17, 2022. Upon the expiration of the statewide mandate, local school officials will again be able to implement mitigation efforts at the local level. At that time, schools may continue requiring mask-wearing based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance.

“The school mask order has been critical in ensuring Pennsylvania’s children could safely learn and grow in an in-person classroom setting at the beginning of the school year,” said Gov. Wolf. “During the announcement, my administration made clear that we would continue to reevaluate the status of the school mask mandate. Now, we are in a different place than we were in September, and it is time to prepare for a transition back to a more normal setting. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 virus is now a part of our daily lives, but with the knowledge we’ve gained over the past 20 months and critical tools like the vaccine at our disposal, we must take the next step forward in our recovery. With more than 70 percent of adults vaccinated in Pennsylvania and the recently expanded vaccine eligibility, I strongly encourage parents to take safety measures to protect your children and your family – like getting vaccinated.”

The current Secretary of Health order requires masks to be worn inside K-12 school buildings, early learning programs and child care providers for both children and adults regardless of vaccination status. The full order remains in effect until an additional announcement in mid-January at which time the administration anticipates local K-12 school officials will again be able to implement mitigation efforts at the local level. The full order will remain in effect for early learning programs and child care providers until further notification.

“We at the department of education are so appreciative of all that our schools are doing to help teachers and students navigate the incredible challenges we’ve faced during the pandemic,” said Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) Secretary Noe Ortega. “We know the mitigation steps we need to implement to keep people safe and keep kids learning in the classroom. School leaders have always made decisions about how to maintain order in schools and ensure that all students have quality learning opportunities. We look forward to working with our schools as they continue to navigate the pandemic and are available to provide them assistance, resources, and best practices.”

“Evidence of the effectiveness of masking has been so clearly demonstrated over the past three months in schools that we are confident local school leaders will take the steps necessary at the local level to preserve in-person education,” said Department of Health (DOH) Acting Secretary Alison Beam. “While we continue to monitor data such as pediatric hospital capacity and case counts, we want to give local leaders plenty of time to prepare for the anticipated expiration of the order. We strongly encourage schools to follow CDC guidance and make decisions with the health of their educators and students in mind. Likewise, we strongly encourage parents to talk to their children’s pediatricians and get their child vaccinated. Vaccinations give your child the power to safely learn, play and be a kid.”

In August, the Acting Secretary of Health signed an order ensuring vaccine availability for school districts interested in hosting vaccination clinics to support Pennsylvanians in creating safe learning environments. This order still applies to vaccine providers across the commonwealth and schools are encouraged to take advantage of the vaccine partnerships with the availability of the pediatric vaccine. Currently, Pennsylvania ranks 5th nationally in first doses of vaccine administered with more than 70 percent of Pennsylvanians ages 18 and older fully vaccinated.

“I have said repeatedly that the vaccine is our strategy out of the pandemic here in the commonwealth and Pennsylvanians are doing their part,” said Gov. Wolf. “With the availability of the pediatric vaccine, I encourage parents to talk to their doctors and pharmacists about getting their child vaccinated, as that is the one, scientific way to keep ourselves and loved ones safe. Thank you to all Pennsylvanians for doing your part and ultimately taking care of your loved ones and neighbors.”

Pennsylvanians ages 5 and older are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. To find a vaccine provider near you, visit

Report: PA Kids’ Health Coverage Increased During Pandemic

Keystone State News Connection

November 5, 2021 at 05:48 AM

Emily Scott

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Since the pandemic began, public health coverage for children has increased by 10% in Pennsylvania, and a new report underscored best practices to help ensure that affordable health care is accessible for kids and families.

Becky Ludwick, vice president of public policy at Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, the group that published the report, said one possible explanation for more kids being insured is Medicaid’s “disenrollment freeze,” put in place to keep people covered when the federal Public Health Emergency was declared.

Ludwick said it is important to enact more policies to ensure people maintain their coverage.

“One of the simpler things that we’re recommending is to ensure that addresses are current for sending renewals,” Ludwick explained. “And the reason that’s important is because we have been in a public health emergency since March of 2020. And during that time, many individuals may have moved.”

Her organization’s 2021 State of Children’s Health Care report suggests the state also help residents who lose Medicaid coverage to have a smooth transition to other public insurance programs, such as Pennie, the state’s health insurance marketplace, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

The report also flagged some of the pandemic’s disproportionate impacts on families of color. Black households with children were three times more likely to have lost employment income than white households with children.

Ludwick argued guaranteeing continuous health coverage for all families enrolled in Medicaid is critical to prevent further economic hardship.

“We often see where families have seasonal employment, so their incomes can fluctuate from month to month or from different seasons,” Ludwick observed. “And so, even those slight changes in income could potentially leave families at risk of losing their health insurance.”

Pennsylvania has continuous eligibility for 12 months for all children in CHIP, and kids under four who are covered through Medicaid.

Merck agrees to let other drug makers make its COVID pill

Wednesday October 27, 2021 at 09:23 AM
LONDON (AP) — Pharmaceutical company Merck has agreed to allow other drug makers to make its COVID-19 treatment, the first pill that has been shown to be effective against the disease. The move aims at helping millions of people in poorer countries access to the drug. The U.N.-backed Medicines Patent Pool said in a statement on Wednesday that it had signed a voluntary licensing agreement for molnupiravir with Merck and its partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics. The deal will allow the Medicines Patent Pool to grant further licenses to qualified companies wishing to make the drug. Neither drug maker will receive royalties under the agreement for as long as the World Health Organization deems COVID-19 to be global emergency.

Legislative Leaders Call for Answers on Testing Delays

(File Photo of Pa. House Speaker Bryan Cutler)
Tuesday, October 26, 2021 at 06:45 AM
(Harrisburg, Pa.) As COVID-19 testing continues to be a crucial component of tracking the impact of the virus on Pennsylvanians, state legislative leaders are requesting access and an explanation of testing processes at the Pennsylvania Department of Health Bureau of Laboratories.
In a letter to Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam, Speaker of the House Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster), House Health Committee Chair Kathy Rapp (R-Warren/Crawford/Forest) and Rep. John Lawrence (R-Chester) said in part:
“With the continued importance of COVID-19 testing in mind, we note that according to testing reports that are required as part of Act 70 of 2020, testing efforts appear to have been hampered for over a year. The reports consistently state, ‘The State Laboratory is currently a limiting factor.’
“We must do better. The COVID-19 pandemic has been ongoing since January 2020, and testing should not be a limiting factor at this point.
“There is no rational basis for DOH’s laboratory to be an impediment in any way to the timely receipt, processing and reporting of COVID-19 test results for Pennsylvania citizens.”
The members go on to request a visit and tour of the Chester County facility to determine what legislation or resources may be needed to resolve any deficiencies and improve patient outcomes.
The letter closed in saying, “We owe it to the people of Pennsylvania to ensure anything standing in the way of maximum throughput at the state laboratory is promptly addressed.”

FDA OKs Mixing COVID Vaccines; Backs Moderna, J&J Boosters

FDA OKs mixing COVID vaccines; backs Moderna, J&J boosters
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. regulators are extending COVID-19 boosters to Americans who got the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine. They also said Wednesday anyone eligible for an extra dose can get a brand different from the one they received initially. The Food and Drug Administration announcement marks a big step toward expanding the U.S. booster campaign, which began with extra doses of the Pfizer vaccine last month. But it’s not the last word. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will consult an expert panel later this week before finalizing official recommendations for boosters

New COVID Vaccine Grant Supports PA Orgs Tackling Hesitancy

Keystone State News Connection

October 18, 2021

Emily Scott

PHILADELPHIA – Pennsylvania hit a milestone last week with 70% of adults fully vaccinated – but there’s still work to be done. A new grant program aims to support community organizations to address vaccine hesitancy and other barriers.

The state Department of Community and Economic Development’s $5 million COVID-19 Vaccine Outreach Grant Program is open to any nonprofit or educational institution in the state and can go toward funding vaccine-related events, volunteer training, and technical support.

During a Friday event in North Philadelphia highlighting the grant, state Sen. Vincent Hughes – D-Philadelphia – cited ongoing vaccine disparities in some city neighborhoods as a reason for the program.

“If you go to the Overbrook section, 38% vaccine rate,” said Hughes. “If you go to the Logan section, 38% vaccine rate. Those are largely Black and brown communities, and so we need to get the help necessary so they can drive the message and make sure that folks get the vaccine.”

Organizations can receive grants ranging from $10,000 to $100,000. The deadline to apply is November 1.

Dr. Elana McDonald is the owner and medical director of Memphis Street Pediatrics in North Philadelphia, and has worked with state leaders on dispelling COVID vaccine myths.

She said trusted messengers with local organizations are vital to improving vaccine rates, especially in communities of color that have been mistreated by the medical system in the past.

“This is our home and it is important for us to get the message out to people who look like us,” said McDonald. “We understand that there is a huge mistrust of the government of the medical establishment. But we’re here to say that we are physicians, we are from your community. The vaccine is safe. The vaccine is effective.”

Pennsylvania is seventh in the nation for first COVID shots administered.

Gov. Wolf: 70 Percent of Pennsylvanians Aged 18 and Older are Fully Vaccinated

10:39 AM

Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf today announced 70 percent of Pennsylvanians aged 18 and older are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Today, the commonwealth has reached a milestone in our fight against this deadly virus,” said Gov. Wolf. “Now, 70 percent of Pennsylvania’s adults have accepted their responsibility to stop the spread of COVID-19 and most importantly keep themselves and their loved ones safe. This milestone is critical to protect those not yet eligible for the vaccine, like our children under 12 years of age.”

As of today, October 13, Pennsylvania vaccine providers have administered 13,135,136 COVID-19 vaccines. The commonwealth ranks 7th nationally in first doses administered.

Last week, the Pennsylvania Department of Health released an updated report showing that the COVID-19 vaccine continues to save lives and keep more people out of the hospital.

“To everyone who has gotten vaccinated, thank you,” said. Gov. Wolf. “For those not yet vaccinated, please consider joining us in doing your part. Visit a vaccine provider as soon as possible. Vaccines are safe and effective, and the one scientifically proven way to stop the spread of this deadly virus.”

To find a vaccine provider near you, visit

Allegheny County Council Woman Makes Another Attempt Trying for Mandatory Mask Mandate

by Frank Sparks, News/Program Director
7:19 AM
(Pittsburgh, Pa.) Allegheny County Council woman Olivia Bennett is back at it again after she co-sponsored a bill last month dealing with a mask mandate that was shot down by council. That particular bill wanted council to impose a mask mandate in the county and fine people $100 for not conforming to the mandate. In the latest bill she is now asking the Allegheny County Health Department to consider implementing a mask mandate for indoor gatherings across the county any time the seven-day average of positive COVID test results reaches 5 percent or higher, or when the transmission rate reaches moderate levels.
Bennett also suggests employers across the county consider a vaccine mandate for workers and offer incentives for getting one.
Council did not vote on the bill on Tuesday. It was sent to the committee by Bennett for further discussion.

Pfizer asks US to allow COVID shots for kids ages 5 to 11

Pfizer asks US to allow COVID shots for kids ages 5 to 11
Pfizer is asking the U.S. government to allow use of its COVID-19 vaccine in children ages 5 to 11. If regulators agree, shots could begin within a matter of weeks. Pfizer already had announced that a lower dose of its vaccine worked and appeared safe in a study of the youngsters. Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech on Thursday officially filed its application with the Food and Drug Administration. FDA’s advisers are scheduled to debate the evidence later htis month. Until now the vaccine was available only as young as 12, and many parents and pediatricians are clamoring for protection for younger kids.