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Mass vaccination site planned for Lancaster County

According to officials, the site would allow for large numbers of people to receive their COVID-19 vaccine so long as the DOH allocates enough doses.

LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. — During a press conference at the Lancaster County Public Safety Training Center, commissioners and health officials released preliminary details on a mass vaccination site set for Lancaster County. 

Officials say the site would allow more than 5,000 people to receive their COVID-19 vaccinations so long as the Pennsylvania Department of Health or DOH allocates enough doses.

The question now: Will the DOH have a large enough allotment to help end the fight against covid-19?

"This is the beginning of the end of COVID- in Lancaster County," said Commissioner Ray D'Agostino. 

D'Agostino compared the fight against COVID-19 to war.

"Now as then, we plan as we wait sufficient ammunition and supplies to win the fight," he added.

Officials explained their next attack against the deadly virus.

"Give us the doses, and we're prepared to distribute them," said Commissioner Josh Parsons.

Currently, county commissioners said around 600 people are being vaccinated each day in Lancaster County. Keep in mind too: Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine require two shots to be fully immunized. 

"There are no reliable indications on the volume or delivery dates for the future of vaccine shipments. Just this week, Lancaster General Health received only half of the vaccine supply it requested from the State Department of Health," explained Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Michael Ripchinski.

Right now, it's unclear if the goal of 5,000 people vaccinated per day at the mass vaccination site will be in addition to the 600 people currently receiving their shots or if Lancaster County's current vaccine providers will have to scale back their efforts. 

At the current rate, Dr. Ripchinski says it will take more than seven months to get through half of the quarter million people eligible in Phase 1A.

"It would behoove us to have as many vaccinated as possible through that center," Dr. Ripchinski added.

The location has yet to be disclosed, but officials say it will be in a central spot with plenty of parking. They say people will be able to use multiple modes of transportation to get there. However, it won't be a drive-through site, at least not initially.

"All of us here would rather take a conservative approach and have it inside a center," explained Dr. Ripchinski.

So far, more than 200 volunteers have come forward willing to work at the center.

"As far as funding, the county still has some CARES act money remaining," explained Parsons. "I will say all four health systems and county government are 100% committed to doing whatever is necessary. We're willing to put up whatever is necessary to get this done, whenever we get the vaccine."

On Facebook, Commissioner Josh Parsons discussed how vaccine doses end up in people's arms. First, vaccines are shipped from the federal government to the states. From there, Parsons says Pennsylvania Department of Health decides how the allotment is allocated. He explained how, then, the vaccine doses go to different healthcare systems -- hospitals, ems companies, and pharmacies, for example. Those systems are responsible for administering shots.

Currently, people in Pennsylvania contact those healthcare systems to setup their vaccine appointments. With some people unable to schedule or waiting weeks before they can get their first dose, people have asked why the state has not developed a centralized vaccine registration system.

Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam said the DOH wants to continue to work with health systems and networks. Beam said the current methods keeps interest in the vaccine up while allowing for mass vaccination.

Parsons believes Lancaster County is doing a great job of turning around shots; as soon as health systems receive vaccine doses, they are distributed. 

Currently, according to the DOH website, Lancaster County has 18,403 people partially vaccinated. It has 6,415 people fully covered.

With initial supplies limited, the COVID-19 vaccine will be distributed to Pennsylvanians in four phases. We're currently in Phase 1A and have begun vaccinating those most at-risk of illness, such as health care workers and Pennsylvanians living in long-term care facilities, persons age 65 and older, and those age 16-64 with high-risk conditions.

Lancaster County has a page dedicated to COVID-19 information and resources.

According to the website, "As quickly as approved vaccinators in Lancaster County are receiving vaccines, they are turning it around and getting it into arms of our citizens. However, like elsewhere around the state, we are currently only receiving a very small allotment of our total needs.  Lancaster County numbers are good in comparison, but much more vaccine is needed to be able to vaccinate anyone who wants it."

On February 1, it will also open a website for vaccine distribution. People can search www.vaccinatelancaster.org.

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