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Hospital staff happy for vaccine, ask for patience until more arrives

WILLIAMSPORT — Local hospital staff members at UPMC are ecstatic that community members have the willingness to receive the COVID vaccine, but are asking for patience as the hospitals are still waiting for allocations of vaccinations and guidance from the state.

“We will update the public as this happens as we learn more,” UPMC Susquehanna chief medical officer Dr. David Lopatofsky said.

“We will over communicate (with the public). We want to be a part of the solution and get patients vaccinated.”

Right now, there just isn’t enough vaccinations being allocated to the local hospitals to be given to those who are 65 and older or those who have higher risk conditions.

Lopatofsky urges locals to remain focused on the public health measures: masking, social distancing, staying home when sick, not congregating with those not in your immediate household.

These public health measures will remain even with a vaccine, Lopatofsky said.

UPMC has been focusing their energy on vaccinating UPMC employees as well as non-UPMC healthcare workers like emergency medical service workers, EMT’s, firefighters, dentists, psychologists and physicians.

Lopatofsky said a majority of the UPMC front-line staff have had their first dose and have started working on their second dose of the vaccine, and have started vaccinating some EMS and local fire departments via clinics and the volunteer fire departments.

The process of vaccinating more of those non-UPMC healthcare professionals will start next week.

Lopatofsky remains hopeful with the news about two more vaccines, the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, that will hopefully receive their emergency use authentications in the near future.

“It is going to be effective and efficient,” Lopatofsky said. “We are enthusiastic. We think we can ramp this up fairly quickly. We will update the public as this happens and as we learn more.”

Once UPMC is able to vaccinate the greater public, they have hopes to open up smaller clinics outside of the hospital setting to be able to meet the demands for the vaccine amidst the ongoing pandemic; “to provide when there is enough vaccine to go around” Lopatofsky said.

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