Heather Stafford

Heather Stafford

WILLIAMSPORT — Second doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been given to front line staff at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) staff in the region.

Heather Stafford, UPMC Susquehanna infection prevention and control clinical director, said emergency responders have also been immunized at the request of the state. It has totaled more than 10% of vaccine they have received so far. Non-UPMC hospital workers would be up next using Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in stock.

"We have feverishly working to establish clinics in each of the counties where we have a hospital located," Stafford said. "We are going to have a clinic in Tioga, Potter, Clinton and Lycoming counties where we will start to work through the priority grouping the state Department of Health (DOH) has outlined."

A website were being worked on to inform the community on how to request vaccination, Stafford said. Invitations would then be extended at clinics which were likely to be ready next week.

"It is time consuming and can be complicated," Stafford said. "The two vaccines are stored differently. One of the vaccines you have to have an ultra-cold freezer, which we do have at the hospital so we can maximize the life of that vaccine."

The Moderna vaccine can be stored in regular freezer, Stafford said, which makes it easier to store in other places. The time frames between dose one dose two was also different depending on whether it is a Pfizer or Moderna product.

Stafford noted immunity takes about two weeks to kick in after the second dose. Basic mitigation tactics including facial masking was recommended for a time after receiving the vaccine. Stafford noted that the state DOH was continually revising the tiers of who will next receive the treatment.

Meantime, Brian Wolfe, Evangelical Community Hospital vice president of clinic and physician practices, said Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines were being administered to frontline workers as part of "Phase 1A " as set by the DOH. Persons vaccinated in mid-December were in line to receive second doses now.

"During the first wave of administration of the vaccines, 836 Evangelical employees chose to receive the vaccine," Wolfe wrote in a statement, "Another 145 medical professionals to include (emergency medical service) personnel not employed by Evangelical (also received) doses."

The DOH COVID-19 Interim Vaccination Plan was being followed. 

"The hospital has not been given notice by the state if or when it will receive another shipment of the vaccine to administer to additional healthcare workers," Wolfe added. "A registration list has been started for healthcare workers not affiliated with or employed by Evangelical."

Healthcare workers who are interested in receiving the vaccine should visit www.evanhospital.com to be added.

Wolfe added that "Evangelical has not been provided any guidance from the state as to when the process of making vaccinations available to the general public will happen, how they will be distributed, or how hospitals will be utilized in the process."

Staff writer Matt Farrand can be reached at 570-742-9671 and via email at matt@standard-journal.com.

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