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WellSpan expands COVID-19 vaccinations to older people in Franklin County

Staff reports
Echo Pilot

WellSpan Health on Tuesday achieved a COVID-19 vaccine milestone by administering its 20,000th dose to frontline workers and healthcare team members across south-central Pennsylvania.

With the expansion of Phase 1A also announced Tuesday by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, WellSpan is now accepting online vaccine scheduling requests for local residents 65 and older, along with people ages 16 to 64 with medical conditions that make them more at risk for severe illness.

Dr. Bennett Togbe of WellSpan Surgical Specialists gave a thumbs-up as he received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in December at Chambersburg Hospital. Local residents 65 and older, along with people 16 to 64 with medical conditions that make them more at risk for severe illness, can now schedule appointments to be vaccinated.

Some high-risk condition include: 

Cancer

Chronic kidney disease

COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)

Down syndrome

Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies

Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant

Obesity

Sickle cell disease

Type 2 diabetes mellitus

Pregnant women and smokers have also been included in this group.

Since Dec. 18, WellSpan has vaccinated state registered EMS first responders, healthcare providers, staff and volunteers.

“The COVID-19 vaccine is providing hope to so many that have worked so hard through this pandemic in our healthcare facilities and across our communities,” explained Dr. Anthony Aquilina, executive vice president and chief physician executive at WellSpan Health. “The strain on our health system from this pandemic is very real and getting this vaccine is the first step we can all take toward getting the spread of COVID-19 under control.”

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WellSpan was among the state’s first hospitals to receive vaccine shipments, working collaboratively with the PA Department of Health’s phased approach to vaccine distribution. There are 20 WellSpan vaccination sites across Adams, Franklin, Lancaster, Lebanon and York counties, with plans to open additional locations in later phases of distribution.

The vaccine has been through a rigorous process before being approved as safe and effective for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration.

“We know that the scientific data is there to confidently endorse the COVID-19 vaccine as safe and effective,” said Dr. Michael Seim, senior vice president and chief quality officer at WellSpan Health. “That is why we have been planning this rollout since last summer so that we can stop the spread of  COVID-19 and turn the corner in this pandemic.”

Eligible individuals can use the MyWellSpan patient portal to schedule a vaccine appointment. Once they receive their first dose, the system will schedule a second dose in the appropriate timeframes.

Community members seeking additional information about the COVID-19 vaccine and how they can get it when eligible should visit WellSpan’s dedicated Coronavirus Information web page: https://www.wellspan.org/covid19/covid-19-vaccine/

In the meantime, WellSpan encourages everyone to continue to follow safety precautions: wear a mask, wash your hands and stay six feet apart from others.

FAQs

From the Pennsylvania Department of Health:

Q: Why should I get a COVID-19 vaccine?

A: Stopping a pandemic requires using all the tools available. Vaccines work with your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. Other steps, like wearing masks and social distancing, help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others. Together, COVID-19 vaccination and following the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) recommendations to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from COVID-19.

Q: Will the vaccine be mandatory?

A: ​No, the department does not have any plans to make the vaccine mandatory.

Q: Can you get the COVID-19 vaccine outside of your home state?

A: ​Yes, you can get the vaccine outside of your home state. 

Q: How will I know when it’s time for me to receive the second dose of vaccine? 

A: Health officials in Pennsylvania are working to teach providers how to use an electronic system to record vaccinations and track when people are due for a second shot.

For the most part, those who administer the vaccine will work to notify patients to schedule and receive their second shot.

Q: Will I absolutely need a second dose? 

A: Pfizer's vaccine is believed to be about 95% effective at preventing infection, but this immunity does not take effect overnight. People who get the vaccine this week will need a second dose in about 21 days, and then it takes another week for the vaccine to provide its maximum effectiveness.