Heinz Field COVID-19 vaccination clinic: What to know if you have an appointment

PITTSBURGH — Thousands of people will stream into Heinz Field Tuesday to get their first shots of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The vaccination clinic, a partnership between the Steelers and Giant Eagle, starts Tuesday and will run through Friday. Appointments have filled up, but Giant Eagle hopes to hold more clinics as more doses of the vaccine become available.

For those who did get an appointment, here’s what you need to know:

  • Get to Heinz Field’s PNC Champions Club 15 minutes before the scheduled appointment
  • A mask is required to get inside
  • Bring a valid form of identification
  • Bring health insurance information
  • Parking will be available in Gold Lot 1

The Pfizer vaccine will be used for the clinic, and patients will be scheduled for their second dose on the same day and at the same time, three weeks following the first dose. More than 4,000 people, all of whom fall into Phase 1A of Pennsylvania’s vaccine rollout, made appointments for the clinic. The federal government provided more vaccines to Pennsylvania this week than it has since the rollout began in December. That’s allowed for mass clinics, such as the one at Heinz Field.

“The more, the better off we all are,” said Barbara Caprino. “Here I am today. It was kind of nice looking at the stadium.”

Caprino was one of the first people through the door Tuesday.

However, there are still thousands of people in Phase 1A who are trying to get the vaccine and have been left in the dark.

“When a vaccine clinic pops up that doesn’t have a 65-and-older restriction and nothing else, I’m always looking to see what we can do,” Larry Barasch, who is in Phase 1A but is just under 65 years old, said. “I actually kept checking at 10 o’clock, 11 o’clock, midnight, and then went to sleep. I got up at 3 a.m. and had three computers on and kept tracking, but there was always nothing available.”

Barasch waited and refreshed the website for hours.

“Then, all of a sudden, the queue dropped to one to two minutes to get in. Then, all of a sudden, it popped up, but there was nothing there. I’m really at a loss,” he said.

The state health department has taken a hands-off approach when it comes to helping Pennsylvanians find a vaccine. The demand has websites crashing and phone lines at pharmacies overwhelmed with calls.

“We’re on waiting lists everywhere. We’ll take whatever pops up, we don’t care,” Barrasch said. “This is not the first time I’ve been up all night trying to get through these sites.”

Nearby states, like West Virginia and New Jersey, have set up a centralized registration system for COVID-19 vaccines, but Pennsylvania leaders have refused.

“It’s a matter of thinking through from a patient’s perspective and walking through what it would take to get it done in a smooth way,” Sridhar Tayur, a Carnegie Mellon University operations management professor, said. “I believe a lot of the confusion could have been avoided.”

Channel 11 pressed the Pennsylvania Department of Health on what it’s doing to help patients get appointments. During a media briefing Friday, Channel 11′s Aaron Martin asked Senior Advisor Lindsay Mauldin why the state isn’t doing more to help patients and overwhelmed providers.

“I think the state is helping with the implementation of the Your Turn tool. We’ve had 180,000 people sign up for that tool,” she said. “I think the Your Turn tool helps people identify where they are in the prioritization schedule, and I think in the short term, we’re able to then communicate to folks as the vaccine becomes more available.”

This week, Pennsylvania received an additional 40,000 doses from the federal government, meaning 650,000 Pennsylvanians are now fully vaccinated.

Giant Eagle hopes to vaccinate 4,000 people by the end of the week.

“It’s a matter of thinking through from a patient’s perspective and walking through what it would take to get it done in a smooth way,” said Sridhar Tayur, a Carnegie Mellon University operations management professor. “I believe a lot of the confusion could have been avoided.”

Channel 11 pressed the Pennsylvania Department of Health on what they’re doing to help patients get appointments.

During a media briefing Friday, Channel 11′s Aaron Martin asked Senior Advisor Lindsay Mauldin why the state isn’t doing more to help patients and overwhelmed providers.

“I think the state is helping with the implementation of the Your Turn tool. We’ve had 180,000 people sign up for that tool,” she said. “I think the Your Turn tool helps people identify where they are in the prioritization schedule, and I think in the short term, we’re able to then communicate to folks as vaccine becomes more available.”

This week, Pennsylvania received an additional 40,000 doses from the federal government, meaning 650,000 Pennsylvanians are now fully vaccinated.

On Monday starting at 12 p.m., you can call: 1-877-288-2070 ONLY if you are a patient with limited or no internet access.

In order to get vaccinated at the Heinz Field clinic, patients must have an appointment and qualify under the state’s Phase 1a criteria. Patients should plan to arrive at the PNC Champions Club 15 minutes before their scheduled time. A mask or face covering is required to get inside.

Patients will also need a valid form of identification and should bring their medical insurance information. Parking will be available in Gold Lot 1.

The Pfizer vaccine will be used for the clinic, and patients will be scheduled for their second dose on the same day and at the same time, three weeks following the first dose.

If additional vaccine supply is provided, Giant Eagle plans to hold additional clinics in the coming weeks, according to a spokesperson.