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Vaccine providers accidentally gave away second doses of vaccines
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The Pennsylvania Health Department announced Wednesday that second doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine were inadvertently administered to others as first doses.

Vaccine providers misused as many as 200,000 vaccines.

As a result, between 30,000 and 60,000 people will have to push back their second-dose appointments one to two weeks. And vaccine providers could be short as many as 30,000 to 55,000 first doses of the vaccine next week, according to Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam.

“In the short term, we are faced with second dose Moderna vaccine requests far exceeding the Moderna vaccine allocated to the state this week,” Beam said.

According to Beam, the timing of administering the second dose to those impacted will now have to be adjusted, but she said the vaccine will be given within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended time frame of 42 days after the first dose.

Beam did not disclose which providers misused the second doses.

Beam said the DOH first explored excess inventory not scheduled for administration this week and, to the extent the department was able to, used it to address the shortage.

She said “a perfect storm of circumstances” that started in early January and “compounded week over week” led to the error.

“We are taking immediate action to remedy the situation and are committed to ensuring that second doses are available,” said Beam.

The Pfizer vaccine was not affected.

Beam said the scarcity of vaccines contributed to the problem.

This week, Pennsylvania has been allocated 183,575 first doses of the vaccine and 143,275 second doses.

In addition, the federal government is sending thousands of doses directly to Rite Aid and Topco stores in Pennsylvania under the Federal Retail Pharmacy Partnership program.

About 1.3 million people in Pennsylvania have gotten at least one dose of vaccine. More than 436,000 people have gotten two doses, completing the vaccination regimen.

Also, the DOH reported an additional 3,413 additional positive cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the statewide total to 902,650.

The state reported 193 new deaths, bringing the total number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 since March to 23,319.

In Washington County, two more people died from the virus, while in Fayette County, five more deaths were reported.

Washington reported 84 new cases, raising the total number to 13,395. There were 23 new cases in Greene County, and Fayette County saw 60 additional cases, bringing their totals to 2,587 and 10,202, respectively.


Localnews
Drive through Ashes

Parishioners were able to receive “Ashes to Go” at St. Thomas Episcopal Church on North Jefferson Avenue, Canonsburg, on Ash Wednesday.

Cathy Brall, Priest in Charge at St. Thomas, held a brief, small Communion service Wednesday afternoon before distributing ashes in front of the church steps.

“We are very thankful to be able to do this for people,” Brall said. “I’m delighted it’s a beautiful day. It’s cool, but it’s a wonderful start to Lent.”

The drive-up ashes offered an abbreviated version of the traditional Imposition of Ashes service, which marks the beginning of Lent, a season in which Christians pray and fast in preparation of Easter.

People were able to drive up to the church sidewalk from 1 to 2 p.m. Wednesday to receive ashes as Brall prayed for them. Participants wore masks, and Brall used a cotton swab to ensure safety measures during the pandemic.

“In a hard year, anything we can do to bless people is wonderful,” Brall said.


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W&J symposium explores issues affecting democracy here and abroad

Jocelyn Benson, a Peters Township native and Michigan’s top elections official, was on the receiving end of plenty of vitriol in 2020, including from President Trump, who called her a “rogue secretary of state” on Twitter.

Trump’s accusation that Michigan was sending out millions of absentee ballots was not true – it was sending out applications for ballots – but it was just one of many morsels of misinformation that swirled around in the months leading up the November election and after.

How did Benson deal with being the object of so much bile? While participating in Washington & Jefferson College’s Symposium on Democracy Wednesday, Benson said she would look at a photo of herself and other secretaries of state on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., where John Lewis and other civil rights activists were beaten by police in 1965, and recognize that “protecting our democracy has sometimes engendered violence.”

“I was on the receiving end of a lot of violent and hateful rhetoric throughout the year,” Benson said. But, she added, “They weren’t attacking me. They were attacking voters. They were attacking democracy.”

The attempts to overturn the 2020 election, the rise of domestic terrorism tied to white supremacist groups, the movement to protect democratic freedoms in Hong Kong and human rights in the digital age were among the topics up for discussion in this year’s Symposium on Democracy, which has become a fixture on the W&J campus every February since 2018. Unlike past years, this time around it took place virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Along with Benson, other guests were Adrian Shahbaz, director of technology and democracy at Freedom House, the nonprofit that advocates for democracy around the world; Pat Benic, a United Press International photographer and W&J graduate who witnessed the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6; Kathleen Belew, an assistant professor of history at the University of Chicago and an authority on the modern white power movement; and Nathan Law, a Yale Univeristy graduate student and Hong Kong democracy activist.

In a recorded message at the beginning of the symposium, Gov. Tom Wolf said, “Government by the people has never been easy, and the last year is a reminder of that.”

Benson explained that, despite the sound and fury leading up to the election, and the tumult that followed it, the 2020 vote was “the most secure in the nation’s history.” In Michigan, voter participation topped the record set in 2008, when Barack Obama was first elected president, and this happened amid a once-in-a-century pandemic. In the election’s aftermath, Benson has proposed making Election Day in Michigan a state holiday so more people have the opportunity to do volunteer work at polling places, guns be prohibited within 100 feet of polling places, and other reforms.

“Freedom and security need not collide,” Benson said.

Meanwhile, Belew outlined how the white power movement has changed over the last 40 years or so, and how the pandemic and social media have worked hand-in-hand over the last year.

“Social media has been the primary mode of socialization for everyone, so we see that it has the power to radicalize that is bigger and more powerful than before,” Belew said.

At the conclusion of the symposium, John C. Knapp, the president of W&J, said the issues discussed on Wednesday “deserve our urgent attention as responsible members of a democratic society.”


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