Vaccine Demand Outstripping Supply
Western Pennsylvania doctors say all those now eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine will likely have a long wait ahead of them.
Pennsylvania’s decision to expand the number of people eligible for the first round of COVID-19 vaccines might have come as welcome news to those 65 and older, or 16-64 with certain medical conditions, until they learn their wait for that all-important shot is still weeks, if not months away.
That’s the message from a letter issued Wednesday by the region’s top doctors.
“We agree the groups identified are key for limiting COVID-19 spread and harm,” stated the letter that was signed by 11 medical officers representing UPMC, Allegheny Health Network, Excela and others. “However, we simply do not have adequate vaccine supplies or clear notification of when and how much is coming to be able to meet this new, much larger group who can benefit.”
The group currently eligible for the vaccine, in the state’s phase 1A, totals about 3.5 million Pennsylvanians.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than half of its more than 1 million vaccine doses have been used in Pennsylvania.
But Dr. Don Whiting, chief medical officer for Allegheny Health Network, thinks those numbers could be “wildly inaccurate” because of complications in the reporting system.
“The messaging seemed to make people think that there was supply that could be given out, but there just isn’t at this point,” Whiting tells the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Allegheny County Health Department Director Dr. Debra Bogen agrees with the assessment that there is simply not enough vaccine to go around yet.
“I would love to tell you that we can vaccinate all of you who now meet these expanded criteria today, but the reality is that the current vaccine supply makes this unachievable at this time,” Bogen said Wednesday.
“Unless (the expanded eligibility) is accompanied by dramatic changes in the amount of vaccine not only physically here, but physically coming, we won’t be able to meet that need,” Dr. Donald Yealy, senior medical director at UPMC and chairman of its department of emergency medicine told the Tribune-Review.
“My advice would be instead of thinking about hours to days based on yesterday’s announcement, be thinking about in the next few weeks or more about getting scheduled.”