I have my shot
Pocono Record senior reporter Brian Myszkowski receives his COVID-19 vaccine at LVHN-Hazleton.
Brian Myszkowski, Pocono Record
Pennsylvania took a milestone Thursday – more than half of the state’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID – and state officials celebrated with some of those who helped make it happen.
“We should all be incredibly proud of this progress made in large part thanks to our retail pharmacy partners,” Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam said in a meeting with Pharmacies in Harrisburg. “This strong base of collaboration is one of the primary drivers of Pennsylvania’s success in deploying this vaccine. About 25% of all vaccinations in the state were provided by these partners. “
As of May 20, Pennsylvania has administered the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to 55.4% of its total population, and 50% of Pennsylvanians aged 18 and over are fully immunized.
This represents 4,346,446 complete vaccinations, 1,637,837 partial vaccinations and 5,984,283 people who received at least their first dose. Nearly 10 million total doses of the vaccine have been distributed in Pennsylvania so far.
Beam thanked the members of Albertsons (ACME and Sav-On), Amerisource Bergen (Good Neighbor Pharmacies), Costco, CPESN (Pennsylvania Pharmacists Care Network), Retail Business Services (The GIANT Company), Rite Aid, Topco (Giant Eagle , Price Chopper, Tops Markets, Redner’s, Wegmans, Weis), Walgreens and Walmart (Walmart and Sam’s Club) for their willingness to get people vaccinated no matter where they live in the Commonwealth.
For example, Giant Eagle set up vaccination sites at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Costco and Sam’s Club took advantage of warehouse space for clinics, and Rite Aid connected with the NAACP to reach out to communities of color.
“We’ve been to churches, fire stations, retirement homes and even a mushroom farm,” said Leigh Shirley, director of pharmacy operations for Giant. “Our latest effort is with the school clinics which have been tremendously successful, and we are grateful for the opportunity to immunize both students and their families.”
Chris Altman, director of immunizations and clinical programs at Rite Aid, highlighted the pharmacy chain’s extensive work alongside government agencies, churches, community centers and others to create contextual immunization sites for underserved communities.
“I would be remiss if I did not share my sincere gratitude to all the pharmacists at Rite Aid who work tirelessly to administer these vaccines. They are true hometown heroes, working on the front lines to end this pandemic, ”said Altman.
Christopher Reed, senior director of manufacturers’ operations at Amerisource Bergen / Good Neighbor Pharmacy, noted pharmacists who have administered 60,000 doses of the vaccine so far.
“We are proud of our independent pharmacies, their entrepreneurial spirit and their concern for communities,” he said.
Erin Lori, director of market health and wellness at Walmart, highlighted the company’s work with PACE to set up offsite clinics in underserved rural communities, resulting in 20,000 doses out of 10 to 12 weeks.
“At Walmart, we now have vaccines in all of our stores in Pennsylvania and we accept walk-in appointments, online appointments and also have a call center to support our patients,” Lori said. . “We work diligently to protect patients and are proud of our pharmacy teams for the moments of care they create.
In more than 400 long-term care facilities, Walgreens has been able to immunize patients through federal and state partnerships, said Jenni Paynter, Walgreens regional director of health care, and the chain now offers vaccines in 110 of their locations. pharmacies across the Commonwealth.
“We share the nation’s enthusiasm to get people vaccinated safely, equitably and as quickly as possible,” she said. “But no single organization will solve the pandemic problem on its own. We’re really going to have to all work together and that’s why partnerships like this are so important.
Stephanie McGrath, executive director of the PA Pharmacists Care Network, noted that her coalition of 170 individual pharmacies has distributed 82% of their vaccine supplies to those of a “highly socially vulnerable population.”
“Our pharmacists have worked with local community organizations such as regional aging agencies, libraries, AARP groups, churches, police and fire departments, and school districts to provide access to those in need. vaccines. We have partnered with statewide health plans to identify and address gaps in immunization status by matching needs with local pharmacies. And we’re not done yet, ”McGrath said.
Several speakers noted that in light of the recent authorization for patients aged 12 and over to receive the Pfizer vaccine, they will redouble their efforts to ensure that demands are met statewide.
The DOH noted that for the week of May 18, federal partners in retail pharmacies ordered nearly 170,000 doses of the vaccine for 680 stores across the state.
Beam noted that the DOH continued to meet weekly with its partners, stressing that their work is not yet done, and while they could recognize and celebrate the progress, there was still a lot to do.
“This letter of intent is a sign that Pennsylvania is not holding back, but rather strengthening our partnerships to ensure that we are supporting residents of every Commonwealth community,” she said.