DANVILLE — Until COVID-19 hit close to home, Leanne Ryan of Elysburg had been on the fence about whether she wanted to be vaccinated against the virus.

Ryan was one of 100 Tier 1A healthcare professionals not employed by the Geisinger Health System to be vaccinated against COVID-19 at a center which the health system opened Tuesday in Danville.

Ryan, a school nurse in the Mount Carmel Area School District, said she was initially unsure about whether she wanted to be vaccinated against the virus due to uncertainty about the long-term impact of the virus, and vaccination.

“Christmas morning my mom called, not able to breathe,” Ryan said. “She was admitted to the hospital with COVID pneumonia.”

Shortly thereafter, Ryan’s college-age son was diagnosed with COVID-19.

“That was enough for me,” she said, adding that she realized it was in her best interest to receive the vaccination.

Allison Hess, vice president of Health Services with the Geisinger Health System, said in addition to the vaccination center which opened Tuesday in Danville, the health system opened similar centers in Pittston, Jersey Shore and Lewistown.

Those centers are for non-Geisinger employees classified as Tier 1A health care workers. Geisinger employees continue to receive the vaccination at on-site locations.

According to information provided by the health system, Tier 1A workers as identified by federal and state guidelines, who are eligible to receive the vaccination include: Chiropractors, individuals who work in school or university clinical settings, dentists, dental hygienists, direct-support professionals, EMS providers, medical students, nurses and nursing assistants, pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, phlebotomists, physicians, technicians and therapists.

Hess said those visiting the vaccination center on its opening day were pleased with the opportunity to receive the vaccination.

Noelle Gotshall, a licensed practical nurse who works at Bloomsburg University, flashed a “thumbs up” as she was vaccinated. She immediately praised the health care professionals administering the vaccination in Danville.

“The process was efficient, smooth, it was COVID safe,” Gotshall said.

As part of her position at Bloomsburg University, Gotshall said she administers flu vaccinations to students.

By receiving the COVID-19 vaccination, Gotshall hopes she can inspire Bloomsburg students to also be vaccinated when the opportunity opens up for them.

Hess explained the vaccination process, noting that Geisinger receives vaccines weekly from Pfizer and Moderna. They must be kept cold.

Each Pfizer vial contains 10 shots, while each Moderna vial contains five shots Hess explained. Once a vial is opened, she said the vaccinations must be administered within six hours.

While 100 health care professionals were scheduled to be vaccinated at the center in Danville on Tuesday, Hess said that number will expand. She expects the vaccination process to be ongoing and hopes the health system receives the necessary approvals to administer it to other segments of the community.

“There is no cost to the individual when they come through the center (to be vaccinated),” she explained. “(The vaccines) were released to us by the state and federal governments.”

Prior to being vaccinated, individuals who visit the center have their temperature checked. After receiving the vaccine, they wait at the center for 15 minutes to make sure they don’t have a reaction to it.

For more information about the vaccination centers, or for eligible health care workers to schedule an appointment to be vaccinated, visit geisinger.org/COVIDvax.

Staff writer Kevin Mertz can be reached at 570-742-9671 or email kevin@standard-journal.com.

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