The first coronavirus vaccine was administered Monday at U.S. hospitals in New York, Connecticut, Kentucky, Iowa, Michigan and Washington, D.C.
Lebanon County expects to receive and administer its first batch of the long-awaited Pfizer vaccine today, a hospital official said Monday.

“WellSpan received notification from the Pennsylvania Department of Health that seven of WellSpan’s hospitals serving as point of distribution (POD) sites to vaccinate frontline employees are included in the state’s first 100 hospitals to receive vaccine shipments,” Ryan Coyle, manager of public relations and communications at WellSpan Health, said in an email Monday morning.

“We are expecting to receive our first shipment of vaccine from Pfizer beginning Tuesday at WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital” in Lebanon, Coyle said. “Our other POD sites (WellSpan Chambersburg Hospital, WellSpan Waynesboro Hospital and WellSpan Gettysburg Hospital, WellSpan York Hospital, WellSpan Surgery & Rehabilitation Hospital and WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital) will receive the vaccine later this week.”

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The initial round of vaccines will go to frontline health care workers and nursing home employees, according to ABC News.

Likewise, Coyle said, “vaccination will first be offered to our team members who have the highest risk of exposure, and as additional doses become available, we will offer it to all WellSpan employees and patients.”

The first vaccinations come, USA Today reported Monday, even as the United States nears 300,000 deaths from COVID-19.

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In Pennsylvania, Coyle said, an interim vaccination plan consists of three phases.

Phase one, beginning in early December, “includes critical populations due to the limited vaccine supply: health care personnel, EMS first responders, critical workers maintaining core functions, essential workers, people 65 and older, and residents in congregate care settings,” he said. “Phase two expands efforts to targeted populations including vulnerable populations and those with health conditions who may be at high risk as a larger number of vaccines becomes available. Phase three ensures that the entire population has access to safe and effective vaccinations.”

Timing of the later phases “will depend on vaccine dose availability,” Coyle said, “but I can share that what we are receiving this week would be for frontline team members. Phase 2 and 3 would come later (phase three likely months from now).”

The country is still battling overcrowded hospitals and record-breaking daily case count, USA Today reported. America leads the world with over 16 million cases and close to 300,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

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The rollout comes less than a week after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use for Americans over 16, ABC News reported. Pfizer, which produced the vaccine alongside German company BioNTech, began shipping 2.9 million doses from its Michigan warehouse Sunday directly to 636 sites across the country, which were pre-selected by governors and local health officials.

Pfizer said it would roll out a second batch of 2.9 million doses shortly after the first batch. The U.S. government is opting to keep 500,000 doses in reserve to address any shipping or distribution mishaps, according to ABC.

“The vaccine has been through a rigorous process before being approved as safe and effective by the FDA,” Coyle said Monday. “Additionally, our experts have carefully reviewed the available research data and have deemed the vaccine to be safe and effective.”

Coyle said WellSpan’s medical teams “have been preparing since August to create a safe, standard process for administering the vaccine to our employees. As we’ve shared, the WellSpan vaccination program is aligned with CDC guidance and the PA Department of Health’s phased approach based on risk of exposure to COVID-19.”

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The vaccine requires two doses for full inoculation. Distribution began in the United Kingdom last week.

Coyle noted the second dose should be given three weeks after the first. “That need has been worked into the coordinated planning,” he said.

Despite a lot of rumors regarding side effects, Coyle said most people “do not have serious problems after being vaccinated.”

“However, your arm may be sore, red, or warm to the touch,” he explained in an email. “These symptoms usually go away on their own within a week. Some people report getting a headache or fever when getting a vaccine. These side effects are a sign that your immune system is doing exactly what it is supposed to do. It is working and building up protection to disease.”

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Large-scale clinical testing is ongoing to assess the safety of the vaccines, he stressed. “However, it does take time, and more people getting vaccinated before we learn about very rare or long-term side effects. That is why safety monitoring will continue. The CDC has an independent group of experts that reviews all the safety data as it becomes available and provides regular safety updates. If a safety issue is detected, immediate action will be taken to determine if the issue is related to the COVID-19 vaccine and to determine the best course of action.”

Pfizer claimed its trials showed the vaccine was 95 percent effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19.

It’s the first vaccine in the U.S. to use the genetic technology mRNA instead of viral components, ABC News reported.

The FDA will hold a hearing on Dec. 17 with Moderna, which also developed an mRNA-based vaccine, before possibly giving emergency authorization for its deployment. According to ABC, clinical trials showed the Moderna vaccine to be 94 percent effective at preventing the coronavirus, and trial patients who had the vaccine had elevated antibodies in their system three months after the vaccines were administered.

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The World Health Organization has reported that 52 COVID-19 vaccines are in human trials, and 162 vaccines are in preclinical development.

According to data from the COVID Tracking Project, the latest seven-day average shows 211,494 new cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. as of Dec. 13, including 106,656 hospitalizations and 2,427 deaths.


Read all of LebTown’s COVID-19 coverage here.

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