How Allegheny County Plans to Vaccinate Significantly More People

Health Department director predicts “exponential growth” for county's COVID-19 vaccination rate.
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By most accounts, the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine is off to a slow start. However, Allegheny County Health Director Dr. Debra Bogen predicts the pace will pick up significantly. How? Bogen says that once more people receive state authorization to administer the vaccine, more people will receive the shots.

“We do recognize this is urgent. I know people are frustrated that we haven’t moved faster. I do expect that this will get faster and faster over the next couple of weeks and I do expect exponential growth,” of vaccinations, Bogen told the regular meeting of the county health board on Wednesday.

Health Board Chairman Dr. Lee Harrison says about 1.5% of the county population has been vaccinated.

“Great effort, but we have a long way to go where we need to be,” says Harrison.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, where we need to be is between 70% and 80% of the population vaccinated to bring the pandemic under control. During this first phase of the rollout, Allegheny County is trying to vaccinate an estimated 83,000 health care workers, residents and staff of long-term care facilities.

Bogen says people will need to wear masks and adhere to other pandemic mitigation efforts for “many, many months” in order to get the spread of the virus under control. She also remains concerned about the potential fallout from the holiday season. “We are sort of waiting and holding our breath a bit to see what happens with the post-holiday anticipated surge [in cases] from people traveling and visiting families.”  Bogen says there have cases traced to Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties, “including some really large ones, which are very disconcerting.”

On a positive note, confirmed cases of the flu have fallen dramatically when compared to a year ago. So far there have been just 49 confirmed cases since flu season began in the fall, compared to more than 4,000 during the same time period last year.

“I think this speaks to the effectiveness of face masks, social distancing and the good, liberal use of washing your hands,” says Bogen.

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