DUBOIS – The first vaccines for area front-line workers will be delivered Thursday, according to officials at Penn Highlands Healthcare during a teleconference meeting Wednesday.
The vaccine from Pfizer will be delivered to PHH DuBois, Elk and Huntington with 975 doses each.
At DuBois, the first vaccines will be given to employees of the emergency department, intensive care unit, cardiac intensive care unit and lung center and then a booster will be needed 21 days after the initial dose.
As more doses come in, other employees will be offered the vaccine, and CVS pharmacies will be conducting vaccinations at nursing homes.
Just as with the annual flu vaccine, employees will not be mandated to take the COVID-19 vaccine, but will be “strongly encouraged” to do so.
As of Tuesday morning, there were 97 positive cases being cared for in PHH facilities, three of which are on ventilators and some others on bi-pap machines.
According to the COVID-19 Taskforce Lead Dr. Shawn Sheehan, 27,348 tests have been administered systemwide with about 10 percent of those positive. He noted that some of those are repeat tests of the same person coming back positive again.
He said there is still an upward trend and hospitalizations will continue. He asked that people still continue to practice safety measures such as wearing masks, washing their hands and keeping a safe distance from each other.
When asked if people who have had COVID-19 need to be vaccinated, Sheehan declined to give a specific answer, stating that each individual should talk with their medical provider and also referred to guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and state Department of Health.
The CDC Web site states: “There is not enough information currently available to say if or for how long after infection someone is protected from getting COVID-19 again; this is called natural immunity.
“Early evidence suggests natural immunity from COVID-19 may not last very long, but more studies are needed to better understand this.
“Until we have a vaccine available and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices makes recommendations to CDC on how to best use COVID-19 vaccines, CDC cannot comment on whether people who had COVID-19 should get a COVID-19 vaccine.”
Sheehan was also asked if the newer restrictions put into place by the state are a good thing, and he noted that people can be their worst enemies and if they had worn masks and restricted gatherings early on, the stricter guidelines probably would not have been needed.
As to when life will return to normal, if ever, Sheehan noted that a vaccine is not an on/off switch and that 50 percent of the population will need the vaccine to just reach a plateau, and more will need it to return to something like normality.
Sheehan also said that for anyone concerned about the safety of the vaccine, there is information available about that on the CDC and PA DOH Web sites as well, adding that vaccines are historically the safest pharmaceuticals.
Finally, when asked if people will have the option of which vaccine to take, whether Pfizer, Moderna or a possible Johnson and Johnson vaccine, Chief Operations Officer Mark Norman said employees are being advised to take the earliest vaccine, which is the one from Pfizer, but didn’t give any information on other options for other people.