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Elk, Montour Counties Lead In Pennsylvania Vaccinations

Min Xian
In this file photo, people lined up outside of Mount Nittany Middle School where a mass vaccination clinic was held by Centre Volunteers in Medicine.

As the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out unevenly in Pennsylvania, Elk County is a leader in administration of shots. The rural county ranks second in the rate of fully vaccinated residents in the commonwealth, according to the Department of Health’s dashboard Tuesday. 

Montour County, where Geisinger Health is headquartered in Danville, has the highest rate of residents who are fully inoculated.

The state has allocated about 17,000 shots to Elk County so far. At least 7,000 of those doses were administered by the independent, family-owned St. Marys Pharmacy. Owner Frank Straub said they’ve already held two mass vaccination clinics at the local high school.

“We did one vaccine every 12 seconds for six hours,” Straub said. The pharmacy held a clinic for 1,850 people to get their first doses in January and a second dose clinic for the group in February.

The pharmacy served long term care facilities early on but has given shots to eligible recipients from across the state since then. The Pennsylvania Department of Health said there are four main factors in deciding the number of doses providers get each week: county population, population over 65, number of positive COVID-19 cases, and number of COVID-19 deaths.

About 19,000 people remain on St. Marys Pharmacy’s waiting list. Straub said the vaccine supply is “unbelievably important” and wished the state would guarantee doses to help providers get shots in arms.

With support from the school and help from about 60 volunteers, Straub said the pharmacy has the ability to run more mass vaccination clinics smoothly. But he said he worries about a Department of Health mandate that would cut the number of providers giving shots because of limited vaccine supply.

“If they’re going to pare down from, say, 1,700 providers to two or three hundred,” Straub said, “We don’t know if we’re going to be one of those providers, so it’s really hard to just start planning another clinic.”

He added, “turning off the faucet” of access to vaccines is “going to the wrong direction.”

The state said this is a temporary measure while supply is far below the demand, and that providers who meet the requirements detailed in the Feb. 12 mandate will continue to receive doses. But the Department of Health wouldn’t give a specific number of providers that will continue to get vaccines. 

Straub said, for now, St. Marys Pharmacy is focusing on administering 1,000 Moderna shots each week.

Catholics advised to get Pfizer or Moderna vaccines over Johnson & Johnson vaccine, if possible

The Diocese of Pittsburgh is supporting a statement from U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which advises Catholics to opt for the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines over the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, if possible. Patrick Doyle reports the advisory follows guidance released from the USCCB on Tuesday, which raised concerns about Johnson and Johnson’s use of cell lines in the development of the vaccine.

In December, Pope Francis approved a Vatican statement saying that it was "morally acceptable" to receive the vaccines. Health experts have advised people to take whatever vaccine is available to them.

On Thursday, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference released a statement noting, "When people have no choice about which COVID-19 vaccine to receive, it is morally acceptable to receive any vaccine they are offered."

Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA
People wait in line for a COVID-19 test on the North Side.

New COVID-19 cases are declining overall in Pennsylvania, but not in Allegheny County.

The seven-day average number of new cases in the county is 170, up from 155 last week.

County Health Department director Debra Bogen says contact tracers are learning some new cases stem from people not physically distancing.

“We have again started to hear that sports teams are having social gatherings, people are having parties,” Bogen said. “And some reports indicate a lack of mask wearing.”

Kiley Koscinski reports hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19 have continued to decline.



Allegheny County:

  • 186 new cases
  • 17 new deaths


  • 2,577 new cases
  • 69 new deaths
  • 1,670 patients hospitalized
  • 354 patients in ICU
  • 2,553,518 vaccine doses administered

This story was updated on March 4 at 7:23 p.m. to clarify the Diocese of Pittsburgh's stance on the COVID-19 vaccines.