(The Center Square) – Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf received his first dose of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine Monday as state officials grapple with lingering hesitancy among residents.

“I was happy to wait until every Pennsylvanian who wants a vaccine was eligible to get my own,” he said at his appointment at Family First Health in York. “I hope my vaccination sets an example for those who might still be considering getting a COVID-19 vaccine and encourages them to make the decision to make an appointment today to get vaccinated.”

He joins 7.1 million residents who’ve since received at least one dose of the vaccine, though the Department of Health cautions that many others appear unwilling to get immunized, for now. About 12.8 million people live in the state.

“Hesitancy is something we have known for a long time was going to be there,” Wolf told reporters Friday at a mass vaccination clinic in Hershey. “We’ve been looking at that since day one.”

Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam said just 53% of workers in skilled nursing facilities have been immunized, despite being at the top of the priority for months. It mimics a nationwide trend, she said.

“While that’s better than the national median of 37%, that evidences how far we have to go and how much of a challenge overcoming this vaccine hesitancy will be in the future,” she said.

The New York Times’ vaccine tracker shows 26% of residents have received both shots. Connecticut, Maine and Rhode Island lead the nation with 32% of their populations fully vaccinated.

Wolf said Friday he thought it was “too soon” to know whether a nationwide pause on administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine increased hesitancy.

The department suspended administration of the vaccine until April 24 while the Food and Drug Administration and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention probe six cases in which women between the ages of 18 and 48 developed rare bloods clot within two weeks of immunization.

A 26-year-old Pennsylvania woman was among those affected.

About 6.8 million Americans have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine since it secured FDA approval last month. Some 247,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered in the state, so far, the department said. 

The advisory does not impact the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, which have been more widely distributed and have not been tied to the blood clot concerns.

The department said last week anyone who received the vaccine more than three weeks ago shouldn’t fear the rare side effect. Others should contact their health care providers if symptoms of a blood clot develop, including severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath.

“This protocol should give all Pennsylvanians confidence in the safety and effectiveness of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine, and individuals should proceed with getting vaccinated as soon as possible to fight the virus, particularly as our case counts rise,” Beam said.

Christen Smith follows Pennsylvania’s General Assembly for The Center Square. She is an award-winning reporter with more than a decade of experience covering state and national policy issues for niche publications and local newsrooms alike.

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