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Warren County supply can’t match demand

Doses of COVID-19 vaccine did not accompany the news that thousands of Warren County residents are immediately eligible for them.

State and federal government officials announced good news for many people waiting for the COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday. Everyone 65 and over is now included in Phase 1A.

The bad news locally is that the supply just can’t match the demand.

That’s a “little curve ball” for Warren General Hospital.

Warren General is the only provider in the community that has done any vaccinations of people who are not employed at or being treated at their facility.

On the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s COVID vaccine dashboard, Gaughn’s Drug Store, Warren State Hospital, and Tidioute Health Center are also marked.

According to the Department of Human Services, the vaccine at the state hospital is only for staff and residents.

The pins for Gaughn’s and Tidioute Health are red, meaning they have no vaccine.

CVS has been working with local nursing homes and long-term care facilities, but those doses are only for those facilities.

The hospital was initially tasked with making sure health care providers were vaccinated.

Then, it was on to other people in Phase 1A.

“Our direction is to be doing 1A,” Chief Nursing Officer Joe Akif said. “We’ve been scheduling clinics three days a week.”

So far, Akif estimates the hospital has put 1,600 vaccines in arms.

It has some doses left — but those are already spoken for. Individuals who were approved previously signed up and are scheduled to be vaccinated. “We’re starting our second round of vaccinations,” he said. “The vaccine that we have are earmarked for people. The ones we do have are already scheduled out for two weeks.”

After that, it’s difficult to say.

“We were setting up 1B clinics,” he said. “We are going to recalculate all of this.”

Having the ability to hold clinics and put recipients together with people who can give vaccines isn’t the problem. The hospital handled about 300 vaccines per day last week when school personnel, who were previously approved, received vaccines over three days.

The community has been gracious. “We’ve had local church and businesses offer their facilities,” Akif said. But the hospital cannot accept those offers, even if there were enough vaccine to justify mass vaccination sites, “We just can’t do that.” The temperature controls and other restrictions on the distribution of the vaccine require that it stays with the hospital.

The federal Operation Warp Speed is in charge of distributing vaccine. Officials said last week they hope to see 1 million doses delivered every day starting at the end of this week. Exactly how many will make it to Warren County is not known, but some should be on the way.

“Last week, we were told to forward with ordering vaccine,” Akif said. “We’re waiting on 2,000.”

That will help, but Akif said there could be close to 10,000 people in the county among those just added to Phase 1A. In addition to those 65 and older, everyone who is at least old enough to receive the vaccine – 16 for Pfizer and 18 for Moderna (which is the source for the hospital) – and has contributing conditions is also now in Phase 1A.

“People are hungry for these, I get it,” Akif said.

When vaccine arrives, people will be notified. “We’ll use our usual communications – Facebook, the newspaper – when we know something,” he said.

For now, the hospital just doesn’t have the supply.

“We’re doing the best we can,” Akif said. “We don’t have vaccine. Right now we’re waiting.”

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