Andrew Kurtz

KURTZ

DuBOIS — As a result of a partnership with the federal government and CVS, Penn Highlands Jefferson Manor skilled nursing home residents and staff received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination on Dec. 30, while those at Penn Highlands Pinecrest Manor in St. Marys received their first dose on Jan. 4, according to Andrew Kurtz, system director for retail pharmacy services and vaccination lead.

Second doses of the vaccine will be administered at these two facilities later this month by the partnering pharmacy, Kurtz said during Thursday’s PHH media teleconference.

Across PHH hospitals, Kurtz said they are preparing to conduct the second dose vaccination clinics starting this Friday, as they received the second shipment of the Pfizer doses this week.

“The Pfizer vaccine requires a second dose to be administered 17 to 21 days after the first, while the Moderna product calls for the second dose four weeks after the first,” said Kurtz. “We have received a follow-up shipment of Moderna for second dose distribution and for upcoming phases.”

Kurtz also noted that PHH has conducted vaccinations for other healthcare workers in phase 1A, including area school nurses, EMS, dentists, optometrists and others.

“At this point, we’re nearing the completion of phase 1A and simultaneously moving on to phase 1B, according to the parameters established by the Pa. Department of Health,” said Kurtz.

Kurtz said phase 1B includes thousands of people across the healthcare system’s communities.

“We’re requesting everyone’s patience and cooperation to ensure we can administer the vaccine in an orderly and efficient manner to each group in each of these phases, while managing within the confines of a limited vaccine supply and a complex, two dose schedule,” Kurtz said. “Again, these are the groups that have been designated within this phase by the Department of Health, and we’re honored to vaccinate them to ensure their safety and help keep our communities healthy. We will be working our way through each phase, vaccinating one group at a time in an organized fashion.”

Kurtz said PHH appreciates their clinical staff and the EMS volunteers who are making themselves available to administer the vaccines to these groups.

“It’s important to underscore the effort and cooperation that’s required across the health system to execute these vaccination clinics,” said Kurtz. “For the past several months, preparations for the vaccine have been an intensive focus for our vaccine team, and we appreciate how enthusiastically so many of our employees signed up to receive it. Their participation in the vaccine has been a historic first step towards slowing the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.”

Kurtz said PHH will continue to keep the public informed as they learn more about when the vaccine will become available to the public. At the moment, for members of the public who are curious when and where they can receive the vaccine, the Department of Health states on their website: “Once the vaccine is available to the public, the Department will use the CDC’s VaccineFinder portal to show where people can be vaccinated.”

“It’s going to take all of us working together as a team to keep each other safe and for this vaccination plan to work smoothly and efficiently for our communities,” said Kurtz. “There are a lot of variables in each step of the process, including a complex, two-dose schedule that differs between the two vaccines. It is likely to take everyone into spring and possibly beyond as we follow the Department of Health vaccine distribution plan. It’s important to note that the groups who are included within DOH phases are still evolving.”

Kurtz said PHH is following the changes closely and consistently adapting their planning accordingly as they prepare to deploy their workforce as efficiently and effectively to accommodate the vaccinations needed in the region as the movement toward the next phase continues.

“We’re thankful for the support we’re receiving as we vaccinate hospital employees, long-term care facility residents and employees, non-hospital affiliated healthcare providers and their office staff, other healthcare professions, such as optometry, dentists, pharmacy personnel, physical therapy, and EMS,” said Kurtz. “While we finalize the administration plan for these groups in the immediate future, we encourage everyone in our communities to please continue to practice precaution, especially as schools and some businesses have returned to operating this week.”

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