By Howard Monroe

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Pennsylvania reported Tuesday more than 9,500 new positive cases of COVID-19, pushing the commonwealth past 500,000 cases since the pandemic began. Doctors say that even though we’ve been dealing with this virus since March, we are just now in the beginning of the fight.

“I looked at the study. I feel very confident about it. So people are nervous, but I think as they see more people get vaccinated, their confidence will build,” said Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley.

Philadelphia’s top health official is showing confidence that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine will help.

Dr. Farley says initial shipments of the vaccine arrived in Philadelphia on Monday and shipments will occur weekly until everyone who wants a vaccine can get one. Farley says that vaccinations will most likely begin Wednesday in the city.

The city received 13,650 doses in this first allotment and hospitals have been advised to begin vaccinating their staff as soon as they are able, and some may be doing so on Tuesday.

“This is a stunning achievement, that scientists developed a vaccine so quickly and it looks so safe and effective. I see this as a turning point in the pandemic. In general, I consider vaccines to be the greatest discovery in medicine,” Dr. Farley said. “I am very hopeful that this and other vaccines can ultimately end this pandemic, just as vaccines were able to control smallpox, polio, and measles.”

“You know, it’s that moment where the tide has turned and we can now go on the offensive. That’s what we’re really beginning to see in this vaccination,” Temple Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tony Reed said.

They have nearly 8,000 frontline workers to vaccinate and anticipate initial doses to take them weeks. Because the vaccine can cause flu-like side effects, hospitals are issuing the vaccine on a rolling basis, so staffing issues don’t get worse.

“We have to be realistic as well. It is going to take a significant period of time to roll out the vaccine,” said Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine.

The vaccine comes as Philadelphia is averaging 1,000 new cases a day and nearing 100 deaths a week.

Each state developed its own guidelines, generally frontline health care workers are the first to get the vaccine.

“It’s a priority ranking that the government has developed that local advisory committees come up with. That includes things like hotel workers, people in long-term facilities, staff and residents and then critical infrastructure workers, people who have to work throughout all this and exposed every day,” Dr. Farley said.


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