Vaccination to accelerate in Allegheny County, ahead of detection of new COVID-19 variant

by PublicSource Reporters

Allegheny County’s COVID-19 vaccination program will soon quicken, just as it expects a new, more contagious form of the virus to arrive.

The number of people receiving coronavirus vaccinations in the county should start increasing rapidly, said Dr. Debra Bogen, the director of the Allegheny County Health Department [ACHD], at Wednesday’s Board of Health meeting. That’s because the number of providers the state has approved to administer the vaccination was recently increased substantially, she said. The number of people vaccinated so far is at least 16,000, she said.

Bogen estimated that there were around 85,000 health care workers who would be eligible to receive vaccinations in the first stage of the rollout and according to national averages nearly 70,000 of them would likely take it up. The county is following the CDC’s guidelines to prioritize who receives the vaccine first.

White women have been most likely to receive the vaccine so far. Bogen noted this could be due to the demographics of health care workers in general, though she said she didn’t know the racial demographics of the eligible workers.

She also noted it’s possible the low amount of vaccination among people of color could be related to distrust of the vaccine in communities of color. The county is rolling out a communications program to try to increase trust in public health measures among residents of color, she said.

“Clearly we need to work on making sure information is gotten to all of our communities, particularly our communities of color so we can eliminate this disparity in our vaccination rates,” Bogen said.

The county added an additional COVID-19 vaccination distribution clinic Monday at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Monroeville Convention Center.

Previously, the only COVID-19 distribution clinic was located Downtown. More than 700 facilities or organizations have requested vaccination through the county’s online form, according to a Monday press release.

Vaccinations will only be administered at this time to individuals who fall in the Phase 1A category, which covers healthcare workers. Workers need only be employed in Allegheny County to access this clinic — it doesn’t matter where they reside.

Allegheny County has launched its vaccine dashboard, which provides frequently updated information about the numbers of vaccine doses administered by county and also shares demographic information about those vaccinated. During the first week of January, CVS is providing COVID-19 vaccinations for all residents and staff of Allegheny County’s Kane Community Living Centers, if they want the vaccine. CVS is also administering vaccinations at 120 skilled nursing facilities across Pennsylvania and Walgreens is doing so at six skilled nursing homes statewide.

Administering vaccine. (flickr/creative commons)

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