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I-Team: Public vaccination plans

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LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — As people across our region receive or attempt to receive the COVID-19 vaccination, questions have been raised about the possibility of mass vaccination sites in our area, like with COVID-19 testing.

There are a lot of moving parts. One of the biggest factors in this equation: The supply or lack of supply of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“It’s just a process and we have to be patient. I know that’s hard to hear. You know it’s a stress situation,” Luzerne County Emergency Management Agency Director Lucy Morgan said.

Morgan tells the I-Team that the county has a plan in place for a public vaccination site.

“We work on a daily basis with the Department of Health. Obviously right now the vaccine is still in short supply. We do have all our plans in place. We have the facility picked, all of our plans were submitted. All the necessary paperwork to the PEMA and the Department of Health and we are just in a holding pattern,” Morgan said.

Morgan says a public vaccination site is more likely than not to become a reality in Luzerne County, something like what we saw when COVID-19 testing sites were set up in the county.

“There are so many options on the table right now, we feel it’s a good opportunity that the odds are in our favor. But you just don’t know. It’s very fluid. We are ready regardless if they give us the nod. We can be up and running in a couple of days,” Morgan said.

“From an agency standpoint the only logical way of having an effective public vaccination site is to do it with a one shot vaccine,” Schuylkill County Emergency Management Agency Director John Matz said.

Matz says the county has a plan ready to go but…

“You know my thought as far as public vaccination site is yeah we can do that but let’s wait until we’ve already maxed out our capability at the hospital. They are already set up to do it so you know we don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” Matz said.

The Lackawanna County Commissioners sent a statement to the I-Team regarding a possible public vaccination site. It reads in part: “At this point, Lackawanna County does not have a mass vaccination site (s) in place. We are in constant contact with the Department of Health on this matter, along with testing and vaccine supply. We hope to have a decision very soon. While we do not have a vaccination site yet, our EMA has plans to cover such a development, and we would be able to put a plan into action very quickly.”

A spokesperson for the state Department of Health issued a statement to the I-Team, basically saying they are planning on public vaccination sites but cannot implement them at the present time because of vaccine supply issues. The state says it will continue to support the healthcare providers with existing vaccination efforts.

You can see the entire DOH statement below:

“Community vaccination clinics have always been part of our plans. PEMA and DOH are actively working together on how to mobilize these clinics to supplement our existing provider network. At this time, the commonwealth’s limited vaccine allotment does not allow for the execution of large-scale vaccination clinics, although our planning to support those events is ongoing so that we will be ready once the vaccine supply is sufficient to support it. The commonwealth is currently focusing on supporting smaller community vaccination clinics in areas that do not have large healthcare systems and multiple pharmacy locations in a centralized area. The community clinics allow us to reach medically underserved communities, and provide us with a chance to review the clinics so that improvements came be made in each subsequent clinic, no matter the size. We know that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to vaccination clinics in a state as diverse as Pennsylvania, and we are working closely with other state and federal agencies to provide as much support as possible to our local partners. At these clinics, vaccine providers will work to let eligible Pennsylvanians in phase 1A aware of opportunities as a limited number of vaccine is available.”

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