Many Fayette County residents have been anxiously awaiting an appointment to receive their COVID-19 vaccines. Over the next few days, that number should drop by more than a thousand in the Bullskin Township area, thanks to a clinic held by Highlands Hospital at the Pleasant Valley Masonic Center.
The clinic began Wednesday and will run through Friday, with Highlands Hospital Pharmacy Director Matthew Mascia aiming to vaccinate upwards of 400 people on each of those days.
“This (clinic) was basically an extension of the work we’re doing with the (Fayette County) task force,” Mascia said. “As we get the shots, we’re going to be planning them week by week. We knew there were a lot of people in this direction.”
Mascia said Highlands Hospital pulled names from the county registry to schedule patients for the clinics.
“We scheduled from 9 (a.m.) to 2:45 or 3 (p.m.) today,” he said. “It’s appointment only, and it’s pretty much the same, on a smaller scale, as the set-up on Saturdays that we’ve been doing. Our goal was to do just under 400 in a day. We’re just trying to break up a lot into three days.”
The clinic is giving the Pfizer vaccine.
“We have the ability to store it,” Mascia said. “Other places don’t. If I take the Moderna, I take away from another location’s providers.”
Mascia said scheduling the appointments turned out to be a little bit tricky.
“We’re doing a good job as a community getting people the vaccine,” he said. “We’re finding that a bunch of people on that list have already been vaccinated. That’s a good sign, but it’s a bad thing, too.”
Mascia said Highlands Hospital has been focused on making the vaccination process as quick and uncomplicated as possible. When patients arrive for their appointments, they filled out consent forms and emergency authorizations and received a card that, in part, served as a reminder of when the second dose of the vaccine is due. From there, they moved to one of several vaccination stations, where a staff of volunteer nurses and nurse practitioners administered the shots. Then, each patient was asked to wait from 15 to 30 minutes to be sure they didn’t suffer an adverse reaction.
Members of local emergency services were on hand in case of any bad reactions or other medical needs.
“We have had quite a positive turnout of everyone,” Mascia said. “Fayette EMS and Mutual Aid are sending crews to come support us.”
In addition, he said, volunteers from the Masonic Center turned out to help, as well as hospital staff members, retired nurses, nurse practitioners, and just members of the community in general. Mascia called the volunteers an “absolutely crucial” part of the process.
“It really is a pretty diverse group,” he said.
Mascia said the vaccine clinics will continue, as long as shots are available.
“We’re going to try to do one or two thousand (people) a week, all depending on supply and what we can schedule,” he said.
BY JAMIE RANKIN | THE DAILY COURIER