The message being repeated across Pennsylvania by multiple state officials and health workers: the number of COVID-19 vaccine doses coming into the state are not meeting the demand.
The Governor noted that nearly 4 million people are now eligible for the shot under Phase 1A of the rollout. However, per the CDC only 1.6 million doses have been delivered to the state so far. Considering each person needs to receive two doses, that amounts to enough vaccine for 818,000 people.
Doctors at Penn State Health understand how tough the situation is and the frustration many are facing in trying to find an appointment and a provider that has vaccine available through the state's map.
Therefore, it has decided to skip the process by contacting patients directly who are in their system that they believe are high risk and eligible to receive the shots.
"The reactions have been heartwarming. Some people want pictures. Some people are excited. Some people cry," said Dr. Bret Delone of Holy Spirit Medical Center about people who have already been able to get their shots.
The addition of those 65 and older to the list of people eligible for the shot has led to a flood of demand for the vaccine and some questions over if health care workers who don't work on the frontlines should be prioritized ahead of seniors with severe health issues.
Penn State Health doctors agree it is important to get shots in the arms of seniors, but also stressed the need to get health care workers vaccinated as well.
"Every operation I do has support from people in the back office who are scheduling the surgery, to the supply chain that are bringing us the equipment we need, the blood bank," said Dr. Delone. "All those people need to be protected so that they can come to work everyday."
Doctors at Penn State Health also noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to staffing shortages which has shuffled some staff into new roles that can place them at more risk.
Executive Vice President, Dr. Peter Dillon, said around 15,000 of Penn State Health's 20,000 staff members have received the vaccination. Meantime, he said the health care system serves around 400,000 patients who are relying on Penn State Health to give them their shots.
"It isn't just we get this shot delivered to us and we can turn it right around and give it to patients," he said as he noted hospital systems like theirs are also responsible for building support systems and technology to schedule vaccinations and to keep track of necessarily medical paperwork.
People who call Penn State Health to attempt to make an appointment will encounter a recording that states in part, "we are following the guidelines of the Pennsylvania Dept. of Health and offering vaccination to eligible people based on a very limited supply of vaccine."
Doctors suggest reaching out to your specific health care provider to let them know that you are interested in getting the COVID-19 shot so they can assist you in scheduling one.