HONESDALE, PA — Wayne Memorial Community Health Centers finished vaccinating the county’s highest priority residents, known as the 1a group, quite swiftly. …
HONESDALE, PA — Wayne Memorial Community Health Centers finished vaccinating the county’s highest priority residents, known as the 1a group, quite swiftly. The only thing stopping them from moving onto 1b residents, according to medical director Dr. James Cruse, is the state.
“We really finished all of our 1a’s who wanted the first vaccine... We did start vaccinating some people in the 1b group this week. However, the state has not officially gone to vaccinate in 1b yet,” Cruse said. “They told us if we had all of our 1a group health care workers vaccinated, we could use the remainder of our vaccine to start vaccinating 1b, but they would not send us more until other areas had vaccinated all other 1a.”
While it waits for more supply, Wayne Memorial has put vaccine registration on pause. Unfortunately, Cruse said that the nature of the week-to-week supply chain means “we don’t know how [many vaccines] we’re going to get until we get it.” He didn’t expect to get any additional doses the week of January 17 but was hopeful that more would arrive by the following week.
The 1b phase encompasses a wide demographic, including law enforcement officers, postal workers, first responders, teachers, correctional officers, manufacturing workers, public transit workers, grocery store clerks and anyone of 75 years or older.
Out of that group, Cruse said that Wayne Memorial will have a specific focus on school employees.
“Returning schools to normalcy has a huge impact on everybody in the community,” he said. “And they’re a fairly easy group to vaccinate because you know who they are; you call up the local school districts and say, ‘Hey, give us all of your teachers [who] want to be vaccinated.’”
While there’s a lot of waiting involved, Cruse said that when it is time to act, they have to act fast. Wayne Memorial learned that it could move onto 1b residents on the same day that it got its first shipment to do so. On the plus side, the clinics have been receiving the Moderna vaccine, which doesn’t have the extremely cold storage requirements that make the Pfizer vaccine tricky. However, there is a strict timetable once a vaccine vial is opened, Cruse said.
“When you open a vial, you have to finish it within six hours or you wind up throwing them away,” he said. “Our policy is we vaccinate our category, but if we have three or four doses at the end of the day we grab whoever wants the vaccine and put it in their arm.”
This meant that some Wayne Memorial employees who didn’t fit into the 1a group, like administrators, ended getting vaccinated early. Expecting some criticism, Cruse said that the public shouldn’t mistake this for “partiality or cronyism,” and, instead, the avoidance of waste.
Wayne Memorial anticipates having most of the 1b group done over the next month, but given all the unknowns and uncontrollables, there’s no official estimate for when the general public can expect to begin registering for a vaccine of their own. When that time does come, Wayne Memorial will have an awful lot of demand to keep up with. Cruse said they’re currently considering what scheduling strategy to deploy to keep things orderly.
He also emphasized that the vaccine is “very safe.”
“The [severe] allergic reaction rate for the Pfizer vaccine is about one is 60,000 people that take it; the rate of anaphylaxis for the Moderna vaccine is less than that,” Cruse said. “The rate of anaphylaxis to penicillin is one in 10,000, and we don’t worry at all about giving penicillin.”