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McCaskey East, Solanco Fairgrounds to be COVID-19 vaccination sites if hospitals can't meet demand

McCaskey East

File photo of McCaskey East High School, 1051 Lehigh Ave., Lancaster.

Lancaster County officials have designated Lancaster’s McCaskey East High School and Quarryville’s Solanco Fairgrounds as vaccination sites if Pennsylvania approves mass distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine in coming months.

The county’s Emergency Management Agency said it has approvals to open one or both sites, but emphasized it will do so only if health care facilities and pharmacies lack the capacity to manage the demand for vaccinations.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is prioritizing the first doses for health care workers, first responders, nursing home residents and others at high risk. Vaccinations would become available in later phases to the wider public.

“It is important to note that the first phase will largely be provided through the hospitals,” said Nate Wardle, state Health Department spokesperson. “The department continues to work with health care providers to sign them up to distribute the vaccine.”

Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital and the Lancaster Health Center said they have received state approval to give vaccinations when the government makes them available.

“Vaccines will be offered first to clinical and non-clinical staff who work directly with patients in emergency situations and have a higher risk of exposure to patients whose COVID-19 status is unknown,” said John Lines, Penn Medicine LGH spokesman. “As greater supplies of the vaccine become available following approval, we will be eager to make it available to our patients to maximize safeguards for the communities we serve.”

Ryan Coyle, WellSpan Health spokesperson, said a team meets regularly “to be sure we are prepared to expedite the process and vaccinate our frontline health care heroes as soon as (a vaccine) becomes available.”


Mass distribution sites

Philip Colvin, director of the county Emergency Management Agency, said the state Health Department will make the call as to whether the county should set up its mass distribution sites.

“We’re really hoping that the other way (with vaccinations at health care facilities) works, but we are definitely ready to go if we need to,” Colvin said.

Vaccinations won’t be on a first-come, first-served basis at the sites. Instead, the public will register online for appointments, Colvin said.

The state health department is developing the website and a public information plan in case vaccination sites are needed, he said.

Health care workers, not county employees, would handle the vaccine and give inoculations at the centers.

Although Pfizer’s vaccine requires storage at minus 70 degrees, Colvin said the county is not acquiring super-cold freezers. That’s because Pfizer has developed insulated packaging, dubbed “pizza boxes,” that uses dry ice to keep the vials at the required temperature for multiple days.

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