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VA Pittsburgh to offer walk-up covid vaccinations to eligible veterans

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - 1/15/2021

Jan. 15—Up to 2,000 eligible veterans across the region could be inoculated starting this weekend as the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System in Pittsburgh'sOakland section prepares for its first walk-in clinic to distribute the covid-19 vaccine.

Two events are scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 16, and Monday, Jan. 18 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m..

The vaccinations are available to veterans 75 years and older who are eligible for and enrolled in VA health care and who receive services at VA Pittsburgh, regardless of where they live in the region.

"This is the first time we're doing this, so we're really not sure what to expect," said Shelley Nulph, spokeswoman for VA Pittsburgh. "We're just trying to vaccinate as many veterans as we can."

She said that officials are hoping to vaccinate 1,000 veterans Saturday and 1,000 Monday.

Several factors will play a role on whether goal is met, among them social distancing measures. Each person who receives a vaccine will be monitored for 15 minutes, with those who have a history of allergies or reactions monitored for 30 minutes.

Veterans who are inoculated with their first dose this weekend will schedule a date for the second dose, which will be as close to 21 days later as possible.

As of Tuesday, 311,477 doses of the vaccine had been administered across the state as officials prioritize health care workers and those living in long-term care facilities. Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine this week said the state could "soon" move to Phase 1B of the vaccination plan, which includes people 75 years and older, essential workers not in health care and people working in congregate settings.

Pharmacists to administer vaccines

Officials with the state Department of Health did not immediately respond to questions on when that move into the next phase would happen, but on Thursday, Gov. Tom Wolf approved a temporary waiver allowing pharmacists who are licensed by the Department of State to order and administer covid-19 vaccines without a physician's order.

While pharmacists will not be able to administer vaccines until it is available to the public, the waiver is seemingly a step toward the next phases of the plan.

PNC Park might be used

The Pittsburgh Pirates are meeting with medical partners at Allegheny Health Network and Highmark to "potentially utilize" PNC Park on the North Shore as a covid-19 vaccination center, a team spokesman confirmed Thursday.

At the VA, doses are being administered at a rate faster than at the state level after officials worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to create a phased plan.

So far at the two VA campuses in the Pittsburgh region — Oakland and Pittsburgh's H.J. Heinz Campus in O'Hara — vaccines, including second doses, have been distributed to most healthcare workers and residents at the O'Hara long-term care facility, Nulph said. Vaccines were also issued to veterans receiving chemotherapy and hemodialysis.

If you can't make it Saturday, Monday

The upcoming walk-in clinic does not require an appointment, but one can be made if someone is unable to make the set times on Saturday or Monday. An appointment can be made by reaching out to the veteran's primary care team and requesting a time to receive the vaccine.

The goal is to eventually offer a covid-19 vaccine to all veterans and VA health care personnel.

"We would love to vaccinate everybody, all veterans and their families," Nulph said. "We would love to but we can't. We don't have that ability."

Megan Tomasic is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 724-850-1203, or via Twitter .


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