PENNSYLVANIA, USA — Pennsylvania has opened eligibility for a COVID-19 vaccine to anyone above 16-years-old as health officials urge people to sign up to protect themselves and their families.
Open eligibility began the same day that the FDA paused the Johnson & Johnson vaccine nationwide. However, health officials remind everyone most vaccination clinics were already only previously administering the Moderna & Pfizer shots.
"It's hard to tell somebody else what to do. I can just say I have mine. I had no problem," said Wetzel B. Robertson Sr. as he waited outside the doors of Wellspan Health's mass vaccination site in Manchester Township in York County as his son was getting vaccinated inside. Robertson admitted the Johnson & Johnson news that hit Tuesday may discourage some people who were already on the fence in getting the vaccine. But, he emphasized he didn't experience strong symptoms when he received his shot, which was not a Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
"It was good. It was quick," said Robertson's son, Steven, moments after he stepped outside the doors of the Wellspan vaccination clinic.
Steven Robertson admitted he was among the people who at first was apprehensive to get the Moderna or Pfizer shot. But, in the end he decided it was the best thing to do for his health.
"I was skeptical at first about getting one. But, then I heard it was better to get one and keep it into your body and let your immune system fight it and that way you won't have complications," he said.
Medical professionals meantime stress the vaccine is the best way to avoid serious illness from the COVID-19 virus.
"The vaccine is the best way to prevent yourself from getting sick," said Stephanie Andreozzi of Wellspan Health.
Andreozzi said Wellspan Health was ready for eligibility to open in Pennsylvania and had already expanded capacity for its phone lines to prepare for the nearly 2 million people who would be able to get the shot under Phase 2 of the rollout.
"We're eager to get as many people vaccinated in our communities as possible," she said, as she added Wellspan Health's online system is the best way to register for an appointment.
She said Wellspan Health has available appointments for the next two weeks.
Health officials at Lebanon County's mass vaccination clinic at 1745 Quentin Road said they too have available appointments and are 'pleased' that vaccinations are now open to everyone in Pennsylvania.
"We have appointments available. We just want to get it out there and get it in arms," said Bob Dowd of Lebanon County's Department of Emergency Services. He said the county is working to administer 2,500-3,000 doses a day at its mass vaccination site.
"The message is spread the word so that everybody you know who's interested comes and gets a vaccine," he said.
The Lancaster County Community vaccination center will also begin offering limited same-day COVID-19 vaccine appointments starting Wednesday so no vaccine doses are wasted. They note on average about 98% of schedule vaccine doses are administered daily with a 2% cancellation or no-show rate at its site at Park City Center.
“Our goal is to make sure we get every vaccine dose we receive into the arm of one of our community members,” said Dr. Michael Ripchinski, site director for the Lancaster County Community Vaccination Center and chief clinical officer with Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health. “Same-day appointments will give our team a more efficient way to ensure every dose is used each day.”
Same-day appointment scheduling will be held at 1 pm daily at the vaccination center's interior mall entrance based on vaccine availability. To register and schedule for a vaccine at the Lancaster County Community Vaccination Center, visit VaccinateLancaster.org or call 717-588-1020.
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