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Working to expand vaccine eligibility statewide

Newswatch 16's Marshall Keely explains the challenges expanding vaccinations could create for local facilities just trying to stay afloat.

BLOOMSBURG, Pa. — Gov. Tom Wolf made a commitment earlier this month that everyone in Pennsylvania's vaccination phase 1A should have an appointment by this week.

During the governor's visit to Scranton last week, he suggested every adult would be eligible to get a vaccine by May.

"The president said that May 1 that everyone should be eligible, which throws out the phase 1A, 1B, 1C thing, and I think he's right. I think the goal should be to get to that point, so it's open to everyone," said Gov. Tom Wolf.

Pennsylvania's acting Secretary of Health backed up Gov. Wolf's comments on Monday, saying Pennsylvania adults should be eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine by May 1, sending more residents to facilities like Susquehanna Valley Medical Specialties outside Bloomsburg.

"We got on the phone right away and told them our name and where we lived and voila," said Karl Myer, who got his first dose on Monday.

RELATED: How to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment in Pennsylvania

The state-backed distribution site is giving 200 Moderna vaccines per day to individuals in phase 1A, but with the governor's comments and planning underway at the state level, the facility is expecting a big influx soon.

"Probably by the end of April, there’s going to be a wide-open gambit of people that are going to be looking for vaccines. It’s going to be challenging for us just because we’ve got to keep our lights on. We have to keep our regular clinics going so we can pay our bills," said Ty Williams, Susquehanna Valley Medical Specialties administrator.

Officials say they’re trying to get people in and out of these doors as fast as they can, but it’s a challenge doing so with limited staff.

"Just trying to get someone registered can take up to the minutes if they’re not already a patient of ours. Our providers are ready to go. They could come in early, stay late, coming in on the weekends. We could give a lot of shots in a quick period of time if we had that additional support," Williams said.

In preparation, Williams says the facility is looking to hire more staff. He's confident with a little more help, they'll be ready to take on more patients.

"By that time, we will have all the bugs worked out as far as our processes go, and I think we will be able to up our production at that point."

So slowly but surely, we can get back to doing the things we love.

"We’re hoping with this shot after the second one, we will still have to wear the masks, but hopefully, we can go out to eat a little more often," Myer added.

There's no word yet from the Department of Health on exactly when vaccinations will be opened to everyone in Pennsylvania.

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