READING, Pa. – Without a county health department in place in Berks, those leading the fight against COVID-19 with Tower Health said they are exploring their options when it comes to distributing the vaccine.

"It is more of a challenge for us, yes," said Dr. Debra Powell, Reading Hospital's chief of infectious disease. "Because we (Tower Health) are also in Montgomery, Chester and Philadelphia counties, and they have a health department and they are standing up bigger vaccination centers."

According to county emergency response officials, Berks is in active talks with the state Department of Health to determine the best logistical plan to vaccinate the general population.

"I think that'll be in a stepwise fashion," said Powell. "Again, there might be one or two centers here in our county initially, and then from there, it may go to other smaller areas throughout the entire county before it goes to your local physician."

Some have proposed giving half doses of the vaccine in order to get more people vaccinated in a quicker amount of time. Powell said that's not a good idea.

"People have proposed that," she said. "I'm not a proponent of that. I like to be able to follow the EUA (emergency use authorization). That's how it was studied, and that's how it's recommended to be administered."

In addition to Pfizer and Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca also have vaccines on the way. Now, the question is when the general population can expect to get the vaccine.

"I think that's our goal, to get to the general population by the summer," Powell said. "It may take us like a month to get through the 1B category, or maybe two months and then the 1C category."

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