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Pennsylvania slated to receive over 100,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine

PITTSBURGH — Five UPMC employees were the first in the state to be administered Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, after the vaccines arrived in the area Monday.

UPMC received 975 doses of the vaccine Monday morning and will be utilizing their vaccination protocol to get the doses out to frontline employees first.

Tami Minnier, chief qualify officer and registered nurse, administered the doses to employees from several different departments, including an emergency medicine physician, acute care nurse practitioner, a patient transporter and environmental services supervisor.

“These employees are my personal heroes,” Minnier said.” Over the last 10 months, they have worked tirelessly at the frontlines taking care of our communities and made sacrifices that we will all stand in awe of as we go forward.”

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Minnier said an expert panel of clinicians across the organization are guiding the implementation of the vaccination plan, which will continue to move forward. Those vaccinated today will return in 21 days for a second round of shots, and will continue taking all precautions to keep the staff and patients safe, she said.

“We as an organization will be moving forward in the next several weeks, to our high-risk employees and populations,” she said. “There are weeks and months to go, but we are so excited to take this first step today.”

The organization is hoping that all 90,000 employees will be vaccinated in the coming months, but recognize that there are skeptics and are not making the vaccine mandatory.

Several of the workers who were vaccinated Monday said they were doing it for their families, friends and patients.

A spokesperson for Allegheny Health Network said they expect supplies for all of their hospitals this week, but are still waiting on exact timing.

The only hospitals in the state that got the vaccine on Monday were UPMC Children’s Hospital and Monongahela Valley Hospital -- making Allegheny and Washington counties the first two counties to get the vaccine.

“In order to receive the vaccine in the first shipment, we met all of the qualifications mandated by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” explained Margaret Brown, director of Pharmacy at Monongahela Valley Hospital. “We have the ability to maintain the vaccine at the temperatures required and the capabilities to vaccinate the number of people stipulated within the designated time frame.”

On Tuesday, seven more hospitals received the vaccine, including UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Allegheny County.

MVH received the Pfizer vaccine which is administered in two doses approximately 21 days apart. The Pfizer vaccine is 50% effective after the first dose and 95% effective after the second dose. MVH cautions that until the vaccine is widely available to the public, people should continue to practice social distancing, wear masks and clean their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer.

“We are thrilled that Monongahela Valley Hospital is at the forefront of helping to put a stop to the spread of this virus,” said Louis J. Panza Jr., the Hospital’s president and CEO. “Since the pandemic began, we have been vigilant to provide our staff with the proper personal protective equipment and to maintain a clean and safe environment. Having the ability to immunize our staff and physicians is another key action in keeping our community safe.”

Pennsylvania will receive an initial shipment of more than 110,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, the state Department of Health announced Monday.

Nearly 90 hospitals across the state will receive an initial 97,500 doses directly from Pfizer, the health department said. Philadelphia is getting its own allotment of 13,650 doses.

The vaccine is going to hospitals that have the ability to store it, with the first shots to be given to health workers, first responders and residents and staff in nursing homes and other congregate settings, the health department said.

The state health secretary, Dr. Rachel Levine, issued an order that requires vaccine providers to report demographic information on people who get the shots, including gender, race and ethnicity.

Channel 11 saw the first doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on the move on Sunday night across the United States.

U.S. Marshals escorted the trucks out of the Pfizer plant in Michigan.

Trays of vials were carefully packed into boxes, and shipping containers were filled with dry ice.

You can read more about the vaccine on the Pennsylvania Health Department’s website HERE.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.