Allegheny Health Network Begins COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution to Eligible Employees at Affiliated Hospitals

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AHN officials announced today that eligible frontline caregivers across all affiliated western Pennsylvania hospitals have begun to receive the vaccine manufactured by Pfizer and BioNTech.

AHN clinician prepares vaccine vial.

"Vaccination against COVID-19 represents the clearest pathway to restoring good health and wellbeing in our communities."

Following emergency use authorization by the FDA of the first vaccine to protect individuals against COVID-19, Allegheny Health Network (AHN) officials today announced that eligible frontline caregivers across all affiliated western Pennsylvania hospitals have begun to receive the vaccine manufactured by Pfizer and BioNTech.

AHN’s vaccine distribution plan was developed in accordance with the recommendations of the national Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, CDC and Pennsylvania Department of Health. The plan includes a phased approach to vaccination, directing initial supplies to the most vulnerable populations.

“AHN is fully prepared to distribute the vaccine as quickly and efficiently as possible to those who are eligible in phase one, and ultimately to all individuals in the communities we serve once greater supplies are available,” said Brian Parker, MD, Chief Quality Officer. “While this process will take time, and require continued broad adherence to safety measures such as mask wearing and social distancing, we are excited to begin the first stages of this mass-vaccination effort which is key to bringing an end to the pandemic.”

Following a large-scale clinical trial, the two-dose vaccine had an efficacy rate of 95 percent. According to Dr. Parker, this means the vaccine was effective in preventing 95 out of every 100 study participants from getting sick with COVID-19.

“For the remaining 5 percent who still might contract the virus, the severity of the illness will be lessened by the vaccine, further underscoring the importance of getting vaccinated,” Dr. Parker said.

Clinical trial participants reported mostly mild to moderate symptoms after receiving the vaccine, including soreness at the injection site and a feeling of general malaise lasting 1-2 days. Doctors say the side effects signal an immune reaction.

On Thursday, a second COVID-19 vaccine, from Moderna, was recommended for EUA by an advisory committee to the FDA. The vaccine also demonstrated a 95 percent efficacy rate in clinical trials. AHN’s Westfield Memorial Hospital in New York anticipates receiving the Moderna vaccine for distribution to employees based on the state’s guidelines.

The COVID-19 vaccination phases, as currently outlined by the PA Department of Health, will prioritize recipients in the following manner:

  • Phase 1: Initial vaccine supplies will be allocated to frontline health care workers, Emergency Medical Services first responders, and residents and staff of congregate care settings, such as senior living facilities. At AHN, phase 1A priorities are employees in emergency departments, inpatient units and ICUs who provide direct care to COVID-19 patients.
  • Phase 2: Timing to be determined based on supply. Efforts will focus on ensuring access to the vaccine for critical, at-risk populations not reached in phase 1, including those in underserved communities. Highmark Health and AHN will collaborate with county health and community leaders to make the vaccine more readily accessible in all communities.
  • Phase 3: Timing to be determined based on supply. Efforts will focus on ensuring the entire population has access to the vaccine.

AHN has acquired freezers at all of its affiliated hospitals for appropriate storage of the vaccine, and has established strategies and protocols that will allow for the safe delivery of the vaccine at each facility.

“Vaccination against COVID-19 represents the clearest pathway to restoring good health and wellbeing in our communities. As the vaccine becomes available, we urge everyone to accept it,” said Dr. Parker.

To learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine, visit http://www.ahn.org/vaccine. For additional detailed information regarding vaccination phases and to determine your eligibility to receive the vaccine, visit the state Department of Health’s website.

About Allegheny Health Network
Allegheny Health Network (AHN.org), a Highmark Health company, is an integrated healthcare delivery system serving the greater Western Pennsylvania region. The Network is composed of 13 hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, Health + Wellness Pavilions, an employed physician organization, home and community based health services, a research institute and a group purchasing organization. The Network provides patients with access to a complete spectrum of advanced medical services, including nationally recognized programs for primary and emergency care, cardiovascular disease, cancer care, orthopedic surgery, neurology and neurosurgery, women’s health, diabetes and more. AHN employs approximately 21,000 people, has more than 2,500 physicians on its medical staff and serves as a clinical campus for Drexel University College of Medicine and the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine.

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Candace Herrington
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