HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — While Pennsylvania expanded eligibility to get a COVID vaccine in phase 1A, the allotment from the federal government hasn’t increased and now many are scrambling to get an appointment.
Vaccine appointments are hard to come by, with many spending hours online and on the phone trying to get one or, at the very least, add their names to a waitlist. The Pa. Department of Health is trying to temper expectations.
Since adding those “over 65 or with serious medical conditions” to phase 1A of the Commonwealth’s vaccine plan, the Department of Health saw more than 12 million hits to its map of providers.
One of those providers is Wellspan Health.
“We were ready. We knew that something was going to happen. We didn’t know exactly what, but when the opportunity came we said ‘yes, let’s move forward and let’s start vaccinating people,'” said Mark Goedecker, vice president and regional medical director for Wellspan Health.
Wednesday, Wellspan vaccinated its 20,000th person and is now accepting appointments from anyone in 1A, not just healthcare workers.
“We want to vaccinate everybody that we can as quickly as possible,” Goedecker said. “A lot of that depends on the amount of vaccine we can get from the state.”
UPMC cosigned a letter with 10 other hospitals saying they “do not have adequate vaccine supplies or clear notification of when and how much is coming to be able to meet this new, much larger group who can benefit.”
Penn State Health on the other hand is starting to vaccinate patients but directly reaching out to them instead of the other way around.
The health system says its supply is significantly less than the 100,000 to 200,000 patients it’s identified who are eligible.
Weis Markets announced it will begin vaccinations in 55 of its in-store pharmacies beginning Thursday, as well.
You can schedule appointments online one day prior.
Many smaller pharmacies are collecting names for a waitlist.
And even big chains like Rite-Aid have thousands of people at a time line up for a virtual queue with few appointments.
“The demand has been so overwhelming but really exciting that there is that much enthusiasm for the vaccine,” Goedecker said.
3.5 million people are now in phase 1A, but Pa. is only receiving about 140,000 doses per week.