The Lancaster County Community Vaccination Center’s site director warned Wednesday that increased hospitalizations indicate a precarious point in the pandemic, even as the center announced 5,000 open appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We are not in a safe place,” Dr. Michael Ripchinski, site director and chief clinical officer at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, said during a virtual town hall hosted by the Lancaster Chamber Wednesday.
Organizers of the mass vaccination site had whittled down a glut of 12,000 open appointments using a social media blitz on Tuesday alerting the public.
Officials are urging everyone 16 years and older to register for an appointment, regardless of eligibility, but are currently vaccinating those included in phases 1a and 1b of the state’s vaccination plan.
“There’s still an awful lot of our county eligible to be vaccinated that needs to be vaccinated,” Brett Marcy, spokesman for the vaccination site, told LNP | LancasterOnline Wednesday.
With the state having opened eligibility on Monday to those in Phase 1b, the number of patients may not have caught up with the available doses.
“There’s no way to know for sure, but we suspect a lot of people may not realize they’re now eligible or will be eligible in a matter of days,” Marcy said. Phase 1c begins Monday and all residents are eligible to be vaccinated April 19.
While limited vaccine early on had hampered officials’ ability to schedule appointments, consistent supply now means the site is scheduling appointments through May, Marcy said.
Vaccine providers in Pennsylvania are required to administer 80% of the allotted vaccine within seven days. Marcy said that while the site has open appointments, there isn’t a concern the site won’t meet state expectations to continue receiving allocations.
Because of vaccine availability, eligible individuals who register could be invited to schedule an appointment the same day, Marcy said. Also, registering now will give patients a leg up when eligibility opens up.
‘People are numb’
Ripchinski echoed what so many public health experts have fretted over the past several weeks: that the United States could be headed toward a fourth surge.
“People are numb to the numbers and exhausted, frankly,” said Ripchinski, who blamed multiple factors for the rise in cases, including pandemic fatigue and variants.
The 159,278 individuals vaccinated in Lancaster County — 78,334 partially and 80,944 fully — as of Wednesday is far short of the 431,975 who are 16 years and older. This represents about 80% of the county’s population.
“We are not at herd immunity,” Ripchinski said.
During the town hall, Ripchinski also shared the demographic makeup of individuals vaccinated through the mass vaccination site in the former Bon-Ton at Park City Center.
As of Wednesday:
- The median age of vaccinated individuals was 59
- 48% of the vaccinated were male and 52% female
- 89% were White
- 6% Latino
- 3% Black
- 3% Asian
- 5% Other
Pennsylvania most recently opened Phase 1b of the state’s vaccine rollout, which includes, among others, clergy, transit workers, U.S. Postal Service workers, correctional officers, manufacturing workers and other workers in congregate care settings not included in Phase 1a.
On Tuesday, President Joe Biden announced a stepped up plan to open eligibility to all Americans by April 19.
To register, call Vaccinate Lancaster at 717-588-1020 or visit https://vaccinatelancaster.org/.