Local hospitals receive vaccine

HARRISBURG—Several local hospitals have received a shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and have begun distributing it to health care workers as outlined in the state’s interim vaccine distribution plan.

This brings the total to 16 hospitals across Pennsylvania to date that have received the vaccine.

“Each day, hospitals will be shipped vaccine directly from Pfizer and will begin administering it to health care workers at the hospital,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “The 87 hospitals receiving shipments this week enrolled to be COVID-19 vaccine providers. The federal government has determined the amount of vaccine and when the vaccine is distributed. Hospitals receiving the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine must be able to handle the ultra-low temperature storage requirements.”

Area hospitals that received vaccine include:

WellSpan Chambersburg Hospital, WellSpan Waynesboro Hospital and WellSpan Gettysburg Hospital.

The initial 97,500 doses have been slated for 87 hospitals across the state identified to receive vaccine directly from Pfizer.

Philadelphia County Health Department received 13,650 doses and is distributing to hospitals in the county.

As additional allocations become available, more hospital sites will receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine over the next several weeks.

Hospital sites are selected by their ability to manage the cold chain requirement with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, completion of the COVID-19 provider agreement, and successful onboarding with the Department of Health for necessary documentation of vaccination.

The number of doses, recipient hospitals and arrival dates are subject to change based on updated information from the federal government and Pfizer.

“These first doses of vaccine are being given specifically to health care workers through hospitals,” Levine said. “Hospitals are making arrangements to implement these vaccinations, not only to their own frontline staff but to other high-priority recipients. The number of people we can immunize truly depends on how quickly the manufacturers can make the vaccine.”

Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration on Friday, December 11, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) approved its use on December 13.

The vaccine will be available in three phases, beginning with critical populations. Due to the limited supply of vaccine, the first phase is expected to take several months. Initial administration of doses will be according to the ACIP recommendations of vaccine administration to health care workers, residents and staff in long term care facilities.

In the second phase, the department anticipates more vaccine doses will be available. This will allow vaccination of essential workers who cannot work remotely and must work in proximity to others. The third phase is vaccinating all persons of any age not previously vaccinated, once the department has a sufficient supply of vaccine. In this phase, the entire population will have access to a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a nationwide playbook that the department used to develop and still uses to update the Pennsylvania COVID-19 Interim Vaccination Plan.