HARRISBURG, PA (WSKG) — Grocery store workers can now get a COVID-19 shot under Phase 1B, and one young woman is promoting the vaccination effort going on at her own store.
The 1B group, estimated at just under one million people, includes postal workers, manufacturing laborers, and others considered essential workers who risk contracting the virus at their job.
Those people haven’t been able to get vaccinated in Pennsylvania for months, unless they qualified for a shot under Phase 1A. Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration frequently blamed the federal government’s sluggish distribution of shots to the commonwealth and the size of the group in 1A –– some four million frontline healthcare workers, elderly, and medically vulnerable people.
But as of Monday, people like Liz Ebert have been able to sign up for a shot. She oversees cashiers and works customer service at a Weis Markets store in Enola, and she got a first dose of the Moderna vaccine on Tuesday — right at her store’s pharmacy.
Other retail chains like Rite-Aid, independent pharmacies and federally-qualified healthcare centers like hospitals are also offering COVID-19 vaccines. Here’s how to find a vaccination site near you.
Ebert appeared alongside Wolf and company CEO Jonathan Weis during a press event promoting the Weis chain’s vaccination effort. A sophomore at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Ebert said she started her job at the Enola store just as the pandemic began.
“I have been with this company since the beginning,” she said. “Our associates come in every single day with a great attitude, saying, ‘Yes we are in a pandemic, but we are going to make it good…for all of our customers.’”
Grocery workers have been at high risk of contracting the virus since Ebert began working, but she said she’s felt safe the whole time, and even safer now that she’s getting vaccinated.
“I personally am not scared at all. I’m ready to face anything head on,” she said.
Weis estimates pharmacies across the grocery store chain’s network are giving shots to between 20 and 30 people per day. The CEO said the increase in mass vaccination sites across the commonwealth has made it easier to schedule people for appointments at places like Weis.
“Some members of the public are double entering themselves for both, and then they either cancel on us or on the mass vaccination site, so it’s kind of evening things out,” Weis said. “So if we’re left over with some doses, it gives us the ability to include our associates or folks who are on an alternate list.”
Nearly half of Pennsylvania — about six million people — are now eligible for a vaccine. Just over two million are fully vaccinated. The state’s move to offer vaccines to a wider group of people comes as COVID-19 cases are rising to their highest level in weeks.
Despite that rise in cases, Gov. Wolf said the commonwealth is sticking to its timeline to open vaccine access to all adults by April 19, a goal President Biden is now asking all states to meet.
Wolf said he’s betting health workers will be able to work through the remaining priority groups much faster than the first.
The administration estimates more than four million people qualified for a shot under 1A. Once 1C opens, another two million people will be eligible.
“The idea is to phase it to 1B and to 1C, and plus…we have much greater supply right now,” Wolf said. “We’re in a much better place, and the 1B and 1C categories are much smaller than the 1A categories.”