State officials announced yesterday that Pennsylvania has opened COVID-19 vaccination to members of the public who are aged 65 and over, as well as those at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 – but that change came without any additional vaccine supplies.
UPMC remains eager to provide vaccinations to as many people as possible, but these efforts are complicated by uncertainty on the amount and timing of available doses. UPMC consistently requests as much vaccine from the state as possible and has vaccination sites and trained vaccinators ready. UPMC schedules priority groups for vaccination only when vaccine supplies are guaranteed.
“For the past month, we’ve had many people beyond health care workers inquire about vaccination, which is a good thing. That level of enthusiasm bodes well for ending the pandemic,” explained Dr. Donald Yealy, UPMC senior medical director and chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh. “Over the last 24 hours, however, many people have called wanting to be scheduled as quickly as possible. Without vaccine supply, it would be misleading and confusing to schedule appointments.”
Scaling this operation for the general population will require a significant supply of vaccine. “We are ready to put more shots in arms, and I am certain we can do that if the doses come,” Yealy said.
Across the UPMC system to date, over 65,000 doses have been administered, and another 45,000 are scheduled. Two of every three COVID-19 vaccinations given in Allegheny County were administered by UPMC. By this Sunday, the health system will have delivered approximately 110,000 doses to health care workers and other prioritized groups in five weeks. To avoid creating unintentional disparities, that includes individuals who help under-resourced communities.
Currently, the most effective way for the public to continue to protect themselves and others is to wear a mask covering the mouth and nose, and to practice physical distancing and hand washing.
“We are very happy that so many want the vaccination. It is one of the strongest tools to see an end of this pandemic. Unfortunately, not everyone can be vaccinated immediately, so patience is key as we continue to prioritize and navigate vaccination in an orderly fashion,” said Yealy. “Stay in contact with your doctor. Vaccine will arrive, and I can promise we will vaccinate you.”
Patients may call the vaccination hotline at 1-833-299-4359 to hear a recorded message of the latest vaccine updates.