The administration of COVID-19 vaccines — especially to people ages 65 and older — is moving at an excruciatingly slow pace in Pennsylvania.

Although people in their 70s, 80s and 90s who do not reside in nursing homes are among the most vulnerable among us, their turn for a COVID-19 vaccine — released nationwide one month ago today — has not even arrived.

Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said Tuesday that the state will update its vaccine distribution plan to provide doses to adults over the age of 65, but she declined to say when that change will take effect.

Instead, Pennsylvania’s chief health officer said state officials must first review new guidance from the federal government before making any changes to the way coronavirus vaccines are being distributed.

Overall, vaccines have been administered to fewer than 8,000 people in Montour, Northumberland, Snyder and Union counties, about 3.9 percent of the total population in our four-county region.

Across the state, 281,305 people have received their first vaccination, according to the state’s health department, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 974,000 doses of vaccine have been provided to Pennsylvania, which has a population of 12.8 million.

According to U.S. Census data, there are more than 2.3 million Pennsylvanians over the age of 65.

Thus far, Pennsylvania remains in the first of a four-phase distribution plan (Phase 1A) with vaccines going to health care workers and to nursing home residents and staff. People ages 75 and older are in the next phase (Phase 1B) and those ages 65-74 are in the group after that (Phase 1C).

Currently, staff from pharmacy chains CVS and Walgreens are providing the state’s nursing homes. Levine said on Tuesday that the state plans to make vaccine doses available to pharmacies for expanded distribution “in the coming weeks.”

Meanwhile, the state continues to report more than 7,000 new COVID cases and hundreds of deaths linked to the virus every day.

Having a vaccine available is great news. It’s what makes this agonizing rollout so frustrating and disappointing.

This is a true health emergency and the state’s public health officials continue to respond at a horrifyingly slow pace.

NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher, top newsroom executives and community members of the editorial board. Today’s was written by Digital Editor Dave Hilliard.

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