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County working to distribute more vaccines

There is a lot of effort going on to get COVID-19 vaccines into arms.

But, there are a lot of different entities working toward that goal — leading to some lack of clarity.

Federal Operation Warp Speed officials are suggesting that states get vaccines in arms as soon as possible.

State officials have made changes to the phases that define who can receive vaccines when.

County government is working with the state.

Sometimes, the conflicting orders from the federal government to the state, or the changes one group makes to its own guidelines, put local providers in a tough spot. But, the vaccines are getting out.

“It’s a fluid process right now,” Warren General Hospital Chief Nursing Officer Joe Akif said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the categories change again.”

For Phase 1A, vaccines are being given at the hospital.

“The crux of the challenge is getting the vaccines,” Akif said. “We started our clinics the week of Christmas.”

“We put a request in” to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, he said. “They pick a date. The supply end is covered. They do a nice job.”

“We’ve covered a lot of Warren for the 1A group,” Akif said. “Then the state changed the groups.”

In addition to inoculating its own personnel, the hospital scheduled vaccines for other 1A entities and personnel, working with Warren County Public Safety. “We also work with the municipalities, the city, the county,” Akif said. “We then moved on to the school district.”

The order of vaccinations can be contentious.

“Everybody is looking for a vaccine,” Akif said. “We’re getting calls from teachers in Erie” who, because Warren County’s teachers were vaccinated, are hoping to come to the county for their own vaccine.

The confusion arose because the rules changed in the middle, Akif said.

When Warren General ordered vaccines, teachers were on the list. When they arrived, they weren’t.

Out-of-county teachers weren’t the only ones hoping to get a vaccine on a technicality.

There were personnel from UPMC — Kane looking, too.

Warren General is in charge of a very specific set of people. “The way the state allocates the vaccine is, you have to go to your hospital,” Akif said.

FUTURE PHASES

There are a lot more people in each of the phases after 1A.

And there is no schedule for when those phases will begin.

“No one is tasked with individually contacting you or your agency,” according to a Friday release from the Warren County commissioners. “If you are in 1A or 1B, please contact the person in your agency responsible for coordinating with Warren General Hospital or other facility. If you are in 1C, please be patient while various providers come online and are available to provide the vaccine.”

“PADOH will communicate with the public when the next phase is here,” according to the release. “Watch their Facebook page, website, and the news. The County and local providers have no control over the timeline of allocations of vaccine to Warren County.”

Phase 1B includes everyone over 75 years of age and various professional groups.

1C includes ages 65 and up and everyone who meets the minimum age requirement for the vaccines (some 16, some 18) with high risk conditions.

Phase 2 includes everyone else, except those who have conditions that makes the vaccine unsafe for them.

The Department of Health is working with other providers for those phases.

According to the department’s COVID Vaccine Dashboard, in addition to Warren General and Warren State Hospital, Gaughn’s Drug Store in Warren and the Tidioute Health Center have agreements to be involved in vaccine distribution.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, the state hospital is only a site for staff and individuals who are served there.

For now, Gaughn’s and Tidioute Health are indicated with red push pins — they have agreements, but not vaccine.

Calling those providers will not help at this time.

“Gaughn’s Drug Store is happy to be part of the effort to bring the COVID-19 vaccine to Warren County,” Owner/Pharmacist Scott Newton said. “We have completed all of the requirements from the Pennsylvania Department of Health and have expanded our clinical staff by adding Justin Scholl, PharmD who is Board Certified in Ambulatory Care and has a wide breadth of experience in vaccine administration and clinical services, to our team to coordinate our COVID-19 vaccine program.”

“We expect to receive the vaccine within the next two to four weeks,” Newton said. “From there, we will be rolling out vaccine administration per the Phased Guidelines set forth by the CDC and the Department of Health.”

“Within the next week we will be posting a link on our Facebook page that will allow patients to pre-register for vaccines at Gaughn’s,” he said. “This online registration will allow patients to indicate into which phase they fall and will help us anticipate and prioritize vaccine ordering and administration as increased doses become available.

“Once we have the vaccine and are ready to administer, we will inform the public via our Facebook page and other media outlets, and will begin working stepwise through any names on our pre-registration list,” Newton said. “We believe that this process will help us ensure a smooth roll out while following DOH guidance and optimizing vaccine administration.”

“As soon as we have the vaccine to roll out, we will be sure to let the community know,” he said. “We are looking forward to serving Warren County to vastly improve the health and safety of our community.”

The same goes for Tidioute Health Center. Patients will be notified when they are eligible and there is vaccine. If the facility receives additional doses in order to serve a broader portion of the population, that information will be made public.

County officials believe there will eventually be several more locations in the county.

In addition to the four in Warren County, there are pins showing vaccine partners in Corry, Kane, and Titusville.

County government is providing logistical support. “We create plans and could potentially be asked to physically set up mass vaccination clinics, provide traffic control, etc.,” according to the release from the commissioners.

SECOND-ROUND SHOTS

As the hospital wraps up giving the first round of vaccine to Phase 1A personnel, some are concerned about the supply of second-round shots.

The vaccines require two shots for full effectiveness.

Akif said the state has assured Warren General that those second-round shots are in position and will be available when needed.

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