WARREN, Pa. – The Warren County Board of Commissioners, utilizing information provided by the State and Federal Governments, provide this update to both answer questions about the status of the vaccine rollout in Warren County, and help set expectations for the community.
Like all small counties in Pennsylvania, Warren County does not have a local county department of health (CMHD) like larger counties, such as our neighboring County of Erie. The authority pertaining to public health, therefore, falls squarely within the scope the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH), including the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine. The Warren County government, in an effort to make the vaccine rollout as efficient as possible, is providing logistical support to the PADOH.
The PADOH created their Pennsylvania COVID-19 Interim Vaccination Plan, a 67-page document that is publicly available, and outlines the public rollout of the vaccination, in accordance with the CDC guidance. Fundamentally, it describes who gets the vaccine when. Due to the shortage of the vaccine, the CDC is mandating phased approach, nationwide, starting with people such as frontline caregivers now and months from now will concluding with the general public. Within phase 1, which we are in right now, there is sub categories of 1A, 1B, 1C. We are currently in phase 1A and are about to move to phase 1B.
|Phase 1A||Phase 1B||Phase 1C||Phase 2|
|• Long-term care facility residents
Health care personnel including, but not limited to:
|• People ages 75 and older
• People in congregate settings not otherwise specified as LTCF and persons receiving home and community-based services
• First responders
• Correctional officers and other workers serving people in congregate care settings not included in Phase 1A
• Food and agricultural workers
• U.S. Postal Service workers
• Manufacturing workers
• Grocery store workers
• Education workers
• Clergy and other essential support for houses of worship
• Public transit workers
• Individuals caring for children or adults in early childhood and adult day programs
|• People ages 65-74
• People aged 16-64 with high risk conditions causing increased risk for severe disease
Essential workers in these sectors:
• Transportation and logistics
• Water and wastewater
• Food service
• Housing construction
• Finance, including bank tellers
• Information technology
• Energy, including nuclear reactors
• Legal services
• Federal, state, county and local government workers, including county election workers, elected officials and members of the judiciary and their staff
• Public safety
• Public health workers• All individuals not previously covered who are 16 and older and do not have a contraindication to the vaccine (note that at this time, only the Pfizer-BioNTech product is approved for those age 16 and 17)
If you have questions about the COVID-19 vaccines, you can call the PA Health Hotline at 1-877-724-3258. The PA Dept. of Health has a dashboard specific to the vaccination within their COVID-19 portal (https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/disease/coronavirus/Pages/Vaccine.aspx). On the dashboard, citizens may find the most up-to-date phases, a heatmap of vaccinations to-date by county, and, very importantly, a map of providers in the state.
What is the role of the county government with the vaccine?
The county government provides logistical support to the PADOH. We create plans and could potentially be asked to physically set up mass vaccination clinics, provide traffic control, etc. We may be asked to disperse information, such as this.
When is my turn to get the vaccine and how will I know it?
The Interim Plan’s phased approach identifies the populations that correspond with each phase. PADOH will communicate with the public when the next phase is here. Watch their Facebook page, website, and the news.
Why are other counties or populations ahead of us?
All counties are in the same phase. There are two types of vaccine. Warren General Hospital received the Moderna vaccine. Due to the temperature requirements of the Pfizer vaccine (other communities), it needs to be used in a short period of time (about 6 hours) and other counties needed to use up the open stock to not go to waste. The Pfizer vaccine was also released two weeks prior to the Moderna vaccine. Each hospital got its own allocation, and some counties have more hospitals than we do, so they had more vaccine to distribute in a very quick order. That does not mean that other counties have moved on to the next phase – we are all operating on the same phased approach.
Why does it seem like it is going slowly?
The PA Department of Health coordinates the distribution of the vaccine with the Federal government. Once the Federal government allocates the vaccine to a State, then the State Department of Health coordinates with vaccination sites like a Warren General Hospital. The State is attempting to meet the needs of all counties in category 1A before moving to 1B. The County and local providers have no control over the timeline of allocations of vaccine to Warren County.
Who has the vaccine and who is the gatekeeper to get it?
Warren General Hospital is the only entity that currently has the vaccine and has committed to providing vaccinations to phase 1A and 1B. The Department of Health has directed the hospital to complete 1A prior to starting 1B. With the group definitions recently expanding, it has caused the hospital to refocus on group 1A prior to expanding back to group 1B.
Other entities within the county have applied for a CDC COVID-19 Vaccine Provider Agreement to become a COVID-19 Vaccination Organization Redistributor. It is unclear when the PADOH will approve them or they will be able to receive the vaccine. More information will be distributed when it is available. As of January 13, 2021, Warren General Hospital is the only provider that is certified and has the vaccine.
Who will contact me to tell me it’s my turn?
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. No one is tasked with individually contacting you or your agency.
Who will be administering the vaccine?
Warren General Hospital is vaccinating 1A and 1B populations. By 1C and Phase 2, there should be several pharmacies and home health agencies licensed and able to vaccinate.
Will there be mass vaccination clinics available?
The PADOH may coordinate vaccination clinics in or near Warren County, but no details are currently available.
When will the vaccine be available to the general public?
We have no idea. We can tell you it’s not going to be January or February, and probably not March and maybe not April.
Who should I contact if I have questions?
First, check the PADOH website. Otherwise, call them at 1-877-PA-HEALTH (1-877-724-3258).