BY JILL WHALEN
Lehigh Valley Health Network is readying what will be the region’s first COVID-19 mass vaccination site at Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom near Allentown.
The network has already erected tents at the amusement park’s parking lot, and plans to start immunizing appropriate groups once it receives sufficient vaccine and the go-ahead from the state Department of Health.
No timeline for its opening has been set.
The network will have the capability of vaccinating up to 5,000 individuals a day from Dorney and two proposed sites in Northampton and Monroe counties.
Meanwhile, Pottsville Area School District Acting Superintendent Jared Gerace told the board at its meeting Wednesday night that district officials are working with St. Luke’s Health Network on possibly using Martz Hall as a vaccination site.
Also this week, Gov. Tom Wolf granted a temporary waiver that would allow certified pharmacists to administer the vaccine.
“We are committed to vaccinating as many people as possible as quickly as possible, and we have closely managed our supply and demand to assure that all appointments are full and no vaccine is wasted,” said LVHN spokesman Mike Peckman.
Vaccine eligibility is determined by the state health department’s phased approach. Healthcare workers are in the first phase and began receiving vaccines in mid-December.
“The network is still vaccinating health care workers in Tier 1A and must be able to maintain sufficient vaccine and appointments for this group. Health care workers will continue to be prioritized in the scheduling,” Peckman said.
He noted that first responders are also receiving the vaccine, and a few community members over the age of 75 have also been vaccinated.
On Tuesday, the network administered more than 3,200 vaccines, he said.
For Lehigh Valley, those who wish to receive the vaccine need to enroll in or update a MyLVHN account. Once registered, they’ll receive a message explaining when they’ll be eligible to schedule an appointment. Those without internet access or a smartphone should call 484-884-1767.
As for pharmacist-administered vaccines, Wolf’s temporary waiver will allow them to do so without a physician’s order.
“Pharmacists, as well as pharmacy interns and technicians, are critical partners in the commonwealth’s plan to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine,” Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said in a statement. “Many Pennsylvanians will go to their local pharmacy for vaccination. This waiver will enable pharmacies to offer the COVID-19 vaccines without a physician’s order.”
Historically, some pharmacies have entered into arrangements with physicians in order to receive reimbursement for flu shots and other vaccinations. Many pharmacies, however, do not have an arrangement with a physician, and even those that do have not had time to incorporate the COVID-19 vaccination into that relationship, according to information from the state. The waiver will allow pharmacists to order and administer COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to the public and without such a provider agreement.
“We are working on ways to increase access to the vaccine, and pharmacists already play an important role in making sure Pennsylvanians are protected,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said in a statement.
This waiver applies solely to COVID-19 vaccines for the duration of the Governor’s Disaster Emergency Declaration plus 90 days.
65 and older update
Pennsylvania residents 65 and older will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations sooner than expected.
“We’re working on … how we’re going to do that and the conversations are going on now,” Gov. Tom Wolf said during an online news conference Thursday. “We should have something specific early next week.”
Based on previous federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, the state’s plan calls for vaccinations of people 75 and older and many essential workers once vaccinations of frontline health care workers and residents and staff of nursing homes are complete.
Staff Writer Christine Lee contributed to this report.
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