WEST READING, Pa. — Alison Beam, Pennsylvania's acting secretary of health, announced Wednesday that the state is stepping up the timeline in which people will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, starting Thursday with all grocery, food and farm workers.

"Gov. [Tom] Wolf and the legislative task force have developed a special initiative to vaccinate these workers," Beam said.

The state plans to progress to the next phase, known as Phase 1B, which is for people who work in industries like manufacturing or public transit by April 5, followed by 1C a week later on April 12.

Beam said all Pennsylvanians 16 and older will be eligible to begin receiving the vaccine on April 19.

"The supply projections, and especially with the increased approval of the Janssen vaccine, have allowed us to more quickly accelerate what really was our planned progression through many of these phases," Beam said.

Local providers said it's still important for people to remain patient.

"It's opening up to more people, so more people can register, but realize the waiting lists are currently still pretty long," said Dr. Debra Powell, the chief of infectious diseases at Reading Hospital. "People will still have to wait possibly several weeks until they're able to get the vaccine."

Over the last two weeks, cases of COVID-19 have continued to climb in Pennsylvania, and experts are reminding people the pandemic isn't over.

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