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Geisinger provides vaccines to front-line health care heroes

PHOTO PROVIDED Tara Skutack, RN, is one of the first Geisinger front-line staff members to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. The first dose of the two-dose vaccine was given to Skutack by Karen Nowicki, LPN, at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center.

DANVILLE — Today, Geisinger employees became among the first in Pennsylvania to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Within 24 hours of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine arriving at Geisinger facilities, front-line health care workers rolled up their sleeves to get their first of two doses.

As one of the first health care systems in the Commonwealth to receive the vaccine, Geisinger is providing it to front-line staff whose daily work involves significant interactions with COVID-19 patients and other staff in critical departments. This vaccination plan is in alignment with Pennsylvania Department of Health and federal guidelines for providing the vaccine in this initial phase. The first vaccinations occurred at Geisinger Lewistown Hospital and Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center.

Geisinger anticipates receiving between 2,000 and 3,000 doses in this initial shipment. With about 14,000 front-line workers, Geisinger will be administering the vaccine as quickly as supplies allow to the eligible employees. The system is leveraging its transportation technology, communications, and scheduling capabilities to efficiently administer the vaccine.

For answers to questions about the vaccine, visit our COVID-19 vaccine resources center at gesinger.org/COVIDvax.

Though the vaccine is starting to be administered, the ongoing community spread of the virus continues. As of midnight Wednesday, 254 patients with COVID-19 were admitted to hospitals throughout the system, meaning 1 in 4 hospitalizations are for COVID-19. On average over the past two weeks, Geisinger hospitals admitted more than one patient per hour with COVID-19, and outpatient testing centers continued to see about 360 new positive COVID-19 tests per day. This indicates an average positivity rate of about 22 percent, meaning at least 1 in 5 people may be infected in COVID-19.

Continuing to follow the recommended preventive measures of masking, physical distancing and handwashing remains critical. While front-line hospital staff are receiving the vaccine, it will likely be well into 2021 before enough people are vaccinated to allow for loosening these recommendations. Front-line health care workers who receive the vaccine will continue to wear masks and proper personal protective equipment.

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