Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
WESA is experiencing technical difficulties and you may notice glitches in our audio quality. We are working to correct the issue. Thank you for your patience.
Health, Science & Tech
Contact 90.5 WESA with a story idea or news tip: news@wesa.fm

Region’s First Drive-Thru Vaccine Clinic Offers Some A ‘Light At The End Of A Tunnel’

Hundreds of residents of northern Allegheny County, and parts of Beaver and Butler counties marked St. Patrick’s Day with a different kind of shot Wednesday. About 500 people received their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at a drive-thru clinic in the parking lot of the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry Township.

The clinic is the latest vaccine event organized by UPMC and the Pittsburgh Penguins, and UPMC’s first drive-thru clinic. Those who received the vaccine Wednesday were pulled from UPMC’s online waiting list.

Patients drove up to a registration tent to confirm their identities and information before pulling up to a station delivering shots. Then they headed over to a parking space to wait about 15 minutes for any averse reaction to the jab. Nurses were nearby monitoring the aftercare process. Many people could have completed the experience in about 20 to 25 minutes.

“It was pretty incredibly fast. It didn’t even feel like it happened. It was uneventful actually,” said Balajee Sethuraman. “I expected a lot more drama.” Sethuraman said he was relieved to get his first vaccine. “I think it’s a light at the end of a tunnel.”

upmc_drive_thru_vaccine_covid-19_vaccine_balajee_sethuraman.jpg
Credit Kiley Koscinski / 90.5 WESA
/
90.5 WESA
Balajee Sethuraman receives a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday March 17, 2021.

Christine Centi said the clinic was faster than waiting for a cheeseburger at a fast food restaurant. “This is perfect. I don’t have to get out [of my car]. I’m happy,” she said.

While a main feature of the drive-thru clinic was speed, Susan Hoolahan, president of UPMC Passavant, noted that accessibility was another goal of the clinic.

“It’s really hard for our elderly patients, some of them have mobility issues, some of them are sick. This way they never have to leave their car,” she said.

The clinic offered Moderna vaccines and was operated by UPMC Passavant staff. Patients were given cards and appointment times to return to the sports complex for their second doses, according to Keith Lorenz, vice president of operations at UPMC Passavant. Lorenz said he hopes to organize similar clinics in the future.

The drive-thru clinic is the latest among a slew of new vaccination options popping up across the county.

Giant Eagle and Allegheny Health Network have held clinics at Heinz Field and PNC Park, respectively. The Allegheny County Health Department also announced new vaccine clinic locations this week.

State GOP asks DOH for information on long-term care facilities

Most of Pennsylvania’s Republican Congressional delegation is asking the state Department of Health for information regarding its oversight of long-term care facilities. The group alleges that failings by DOH lead to preventable COVID-19 deaths. 

More than half of the state’s COVID deaths have been among long-term care residents. Saran Boden reports this is higher than the national average—though Pennsylvania has a large elderly population.  DOH says it follows federal guidance, and that it has worked with facilities to make sure they have the necessary support and resources.

Health insurance eligibility expands and becomes less expensive

Americans will pay less in government health insurance premiums under a provision in the latest pandemic relief package. State officials say premiums will be completely covered for Pennsylvanians who qualify for unemployment benefits this year.

On Wednesday, Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman says the relief package also covers COBRA premiums for people who were laid off or lost hours during the pandemic.

“Currently, those laid-off workers have to pay the full cost of that coverage,” Altman said. “But under the American Rescue Plan, they will pay no cost for that coverage through September of this year.”

Pennsylvanians can enroll in the state program here until May 15th.

Vaccine eligibility opens up in Allegheny County

The Allegheny County Health Department will start to vaccinate people who are ages 50-to-64, and also have a health risk that meets Pennsylvania’s 1A criteria for vaccine eligibility. Due to limited supply, the health department was only vaccinating health care workers, and people who were 65 and older. ACHD director Dr. Debra Bogen says vaccinations for the expanded group start on Friday.

“By the end of this week, at least 50% of county residents who are 65 or older will have received at least one vaccine, one vaccine dose,” Bogen said. “These data tell us it’s time to expand our eligibility requirements.”

LATEST NUMBERS:

Allegheny County (had issues with data reporting today):

  • 285 new cases
  • 6 new deaths

Pennsylvania:

  • 3,004 new cases
  • 1,489 hospitalizations
  • 280 patients in the ICU
  • 37 new deaths
  • More than 1.3 million people fully vaccinated