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Vaccines offer hope but appointments are hard to come by


Special to The Press

As the COVID-19 pandemic approaches its one-year anniversary, a light is beginning to dawn as vaccines are becoming available.

But the news is not all good.

Anxious to get their shot, people are scrambling in an environment where vaccines are limited and appointments hard to come by.

At the end of January, the Pennsylvania Department of Health announced people age 65 and older, as well as those between the ages of 16-65 with serious health risks would be eligible for the COVID vaccine.

Subsequently, those eligible to get the vaccine have been placed on hold.

Vaccine scarcity may be one reason that getting an appointment has become increasingly difficult.

“I’m in the category but pharmacies are not following the state guidance because they’re saying ‘we don’t have enough vaccine’,” said Orefield resident Jan Pavelco. “People are getting the vaccine by dumb luck. It’s definitely testing my patience.”

Kempton resident Marianne Allen and her husband were able to get the vaccine at Lehigh Valley Hospital after days of calling and registering online.

“I became obsessed with it because COVID is so deadly,” Allen said.

When an acquaintance suggested she try a phone number that worked for her, Allen reacted quickly.

“When I called the second time, that’s when I got through,” she explained. “I had tried all morning to no avail, but I took a break, did some laundry, had some lunch and when I called again, I got a hit. I felt like I won the lottery.”

Registration for the vaccine is mainly an online activity.

Vaccine distribution spots pop up on a dashboard that is part of the Pennsylvania website.

“A few days ago, there was a three-step process to see if there’s an opening but now they’ve added another layer,” Pavelco said. “It took me almost two hours before I could even fill out the form on the St Luke’s site with tech support.

“I finally got on to fill out the form.”

The retired business and technology teacher is frustrated navigating the various websites.

“The websites are so encrypted. It’s like a scavenger hunt and nobody’s honoring the state suggested process,” she said.

The pharmacy in the Weis market in Schnecksville has started administering the vaccine on a limited basis.

At present, 20 shots are being given each weekday and 10 on Saturday to those that have secured an appointment online.

This situation has become common.

Consequently, many are traveling great distances to get the vaccine.

This reporter was able to get the first shot in Carlisle because that was the first appointment that became available.

But I will need to return there for the second shot.

According to Gov. Tom Wolf, Pennsylvania has received about 1.5 million doses of the vaccine, but 8 million doses are needed for people to get the two-shot protection.

At the same time, Johnson and Johnson has produced a one-shot vaccine that will likely be available soon.

Allen’s brother-in-law, who lives just north of New York City was able to get an appointment seven hours from his home.

Three weeks later, he will have to make the same trip to get the second vaccine.

Shortages are leading to wealthier Americans seeking to purchase the vaccine and to vaccine tourism, especially as fear over a new variant is heightened.

As medical professionals are urging vaccination to get the pandemic under control, the quest for a vaccine appointment goes on.

“It’s throw-a-dart and see how it goes. You have to be so on top of it,” Allen said, “But you just can’t let it go.”

PRESS PHOTO BY ANNA GILGOFF Kim, a nurse, came out of retirement to assist giving the vaccine at Quality Care Pharmacy in Carlisle.
PRESS PHOTO BY ANNA GILGOFF Quality Care Pharmacy, Carlisle, is one of the vaccine distribution spots in the state.