Allegheny County officials are urging local COVID-19 vaccine providers to inoculate frontline health care workers over those further down the state's prioritization list. County health department director Dr. Debra Bogen said providers should contact the county if they can’t find groups of phase 1A workers.
“If there is a distributor out there who has vaccine and doesn’t know how to reach a 1A population, we have been collecting that information at the county health department,” she said at a press conference Wednesday.
Bogen’s comments come after several individuals reported witnessing people in other categories receive the COVID-19 vaccine while frontline workers wait their turn. More than one dozen UPMC clinicians and employees spoke to WESA about the healthcare system's vaccination rollout; several are in non-patient-facing or remote roles and have been vaccinated, while others who see patients regularly have not.
“If you’re a provider, you have vaccine and you’ve been doing 1B instead of 1A, give a reach out to us and we will provide you a list of 1A people who are waiting for vaccine,” Bogen said.
Bogen noted the region has a large number of people who fall into the phase 1-A category. She and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald urged the public to remain patient as providers vaccinate the state’s top priority group.
Phase 1A workers include nurses and hospital workers as well as those who don’t work in a hospital setting like dentists and primary care physicians. Many have struggled to get vaccinated over the last several weeks.
The Pennsylvania Health Department has ordered hospitals to reserve 10% of their vaccine shipments for nonaffiliated frontline health care workers, but there has been confusion about how workers are supposed to request reserved vaccines.
The state published a map of COVID-19 vaccine providers this week with contact information and appointment booking instructions for frontline health care workers.
Bogen said the county’s focus remains on vaccinating phase 1A workers, despite comments from Pennsylvania health secretary Dr. Rachel Levine on Monday that the state may “soon” move to phase 1B.
Phase 1B is a much broader category that includes early childhood education teachers, first responders, people over 65-years-old with underlying health conditions and anyone over 75-years-old.
Bogen said completing phase 1A could still take a few more weeks and she urged those eager to move down the prioritization list to exercise patience. State and local health care officials have said expanding vaccine access depends on manufacturers and the federal government.
“I get it. When you’re waiting for a shot that can change your life, and potentially save your life, that shot couldn’t come fast enough,” said Bogen.