COVID-19 vaccines: Good news for seniors, vulnerable others

COVID- 19 vaccinations begin

There is good news for seniors and people with serious medical conditions concerned about catching COVID-19. WellSpan Health said this week it will begin vaccinating those vulnerable citizens immediately.

The announcement came Friday after Pennsylvania’s Department of Health unveiled its latest COVID-19 vaccination plan. That plan expands the Phase1A vaccination to include people who are 65 and older; and those 16-64 with certain underlying medical conditions that make them more vulnerable to the disease.

RELATED: Frontline caregivers get vaccinated

WellSpan begins its expanded vaccination offerings in its six-county coverage area today. Eligible individuals can use the MyWellSpan patient portal to schedule a vaccine online. Once they receive their first dose, the system automatically schedules a second dose in the appropriate timeframes.

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Meanwhile, WellSpan achieved a COVID-19 vaccine milestone this week. It administered it’s 20,000th dose to frontline workers and team members.

Since December 18, team members, state registered EMS first responders, healthcare providers and staff and WellSpan volunteers have been vaccinated.

WellSpan was among the state’s first hospitals to receive vaccine shipments. They worked collaboratively with the PA Department of Health’s phased approach to vaccine distribution.

good news for seniors

WellSpan vaccination sites

As of today, there are 20 WellSpan vaccination sites across Adams, Franklin, Lancaster, Lebanon and York Counties. Plans are underway to open additional locations in later phases of distribution.

The vaccine provides hope to both front-line health care workers and the community, Anthony Aquilina, WellSpan’s Executive vice-president and chief physician said.

“The strain on our health system from this pandemic is very real,” he said. “Getting this vaccine is the first step we can all take toward getting the spread of COVID-19 under control.”

As of Tuesday, DOH reported 4,582 individuals hospitalized with COVID-19. Of that number, 950 patients are in the intensive care unit with COVID-19. Most of the patients hospitalized are ages 65 or older. Most of the deaths have occurred in patients 65 or older. More data is available here.

As of Monday, 48 people were hospitalized at Chambersburg Hospital with COVID-19, compared to 101 on Dec. 13. Waynesboro Hospital had five COVID-19 patients Monday and Gettysburg Hospital had 23.

READ: Foundation is helping: Homeless with COVID-19

Vaccine touted as safe, effective

The vaccine went through a rigorous process before being approved as safe and effective for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), health officials claim.

“We know that the scientific data is there to confidently endorse the COVID-19 vaccine as safe and effective,” said Michael Seim, M.D., senior vice president and chief quality officer at WellSpan Health. “That is why we have been planning this rollout since last summer.”

He said the goal is to stop the spread of  COVID-19 and turn the corner in the pandemic.

Cindy Findley, Department of Health’s Deputy Secretary for Health Control and Disease Prevention, announced the new vaccine plan Tuesday. Findley heads the state’s Vaccine Task Force.

The number of people eligible to get vaccinated is expanding, she said; but the allotment of vaccine doses Pennsylvania is receiving from the federal government is not increasing.

The state has developed a ‘vaccine eligibility quiz to help people determine when they are eligible for vaccination, Findley said.

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