Pennsylvania hospitals administer first doses of COVID-19 vaccine

Pennsylvania hospitals administer first doses of COVID-19 vaccineCharmaine Pykosh, a certified nurse practitioner at UPMC Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, received the health system’s first dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on Monday. Photo credit: UPMC.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center administered the first dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on Monday as hospitals in every county prepare for the mass immunization of health care workers in the coming weeks.

UPMC identified Charmaine Pykosh, a certified nurse practitioner at the UPMC Childrens Hospital, as the first of its employees vaccinated Monday morning, less than two hours after the first shipment arrived in Pittsburgh.

Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said 83 hospitals in 66 counties each received just under 1,000 doses of the vaccine and will administer it to their front line workers first. She said the hospitals chosen demonstrated the capacity to store the Pfizer vaccine at -70 degrees Celsius as required.

Philadelphia, as one of the nation’s largest cities, will receive approximately 15,000 doses this week, according to a report from The Inquirer.

“It’s tremendously satisfying to get the vaccine and start immunizing,” Levine said Monday. “You have to be realistic as well. It’s going to take a significant amount of time to give out of the vaccine and get through the three phases until its available to the general public.”

Pennsylvania developed a three-stage vaccination plan that prioritizes hospitals, long term care facilities and vulnerable populations. The general public, Levine warned, likely won’t receive vaccinations until spring or summer.

In the meantime, she urged residents to stick with social distancing, masking and avoiding traveling and gatherings large and small.

When asked about the safety of the vaccines, Levine said residents should feel comfortable getting immunized.

“I would disagree that this vaccine was pushed through quickly,” she said. “The pharmaceutical companies received billions of dollars from the federal government to develop the vaccine at the same time. That doesn’t normally happen, but that’s at the heart of Operation Warp Speed.

“These vaccines are safe and they are effective and I would consider people to strongly consider, when the time is right … to get the vaccine and protect themselves and their families and their communities from COVID-19,” she added.

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