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Under Half Of COVID Vaccine Doses In Allegheny Co Have Been Given To Residents. Where Are The Rest?

Sarah Boden
90.5 WESA News
Shots of the Moderna COVID vaccine that were prepared at a vaccination clinic held at Carlow University on Jan. 15, 2021. Each dose is 0.05 mL.

State data show that more than 180,000 doses of the COVID vaccine have been distributed to Allegheny County facilities—yet less than half of those doses have been administered to county residents.

Part of the issue appears to be caused by the fact that state and local governments have no idea how much vaccine they’ll receive, week to week.

At a Wednesday press conference, Dr. Debra Bogen, director of the county health department, said this inconsistency has caused medical providers to hold back some vaccine to make sure there are enough doses for already scheduled appointments.

“So that’s what I think is in storage,” said Bogen. “[It’s] not necessarily second doses [that are] really being held. It’s literally dedicated vaccines for people who have appointments coming up.”

The Biden administration has pledged to boost the weekly supply of vaccine being distributed—and to tell states three weeks in advance about how much vaccine to expect. This hopefully will allow for more time to plan distribution efforts at the local level.

Bogen noted that another reason for the discrepancy between the amount of vaccine received and the amount administered is that when a non-Allegheny County resident is vaccinated at a facility within the county, that vaccination is counted in the person’s county of residence.  

“The good news is there [are] vaccinations happening all over our county,” said Bogen. “The health department was sent enough doses of vaccine this week to ensure second doses while continuing first dose vaccination opportunities.”

In addition to the health department, local pharmacies, community clinics and hospitals have also been inoculating people. Bogen estimates that one-third of county residents are now eligible to receive the vaccine under state guidelines that were revised last week. As a result, the demand for vaccinations has rocketed. 

Other good news regarding the pandemic is that just as national coronavirus cases seem to be declining, the county’s daily case count county is also trending down. The number of reported new cases is frequently under 400. The county says the last time case numbers were this low was in early November.

“But as encouraged as I am by the numbers, I am still cautious,” said Bogen. “We’ve all heard the news about the new variants of the virus. And the health department is watching closely for signs that they could be present here in Allegheny County.”

To keep numbers going down, Bogen said county residents must continue to observe COVID safety measures—like masking and physical distancing.  

Sarah Boden covers health and science for 90.5 WESA. Before coming to Pittsburgh in November 2017, she was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio where she covered a range of issues, including the 2016 Iowa Caucuses.
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