A closer look: vaccination efforts in Pittsburgh

Nurse Sandra Lindsay from the Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York was first to receive the new COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 14, 2020, nearly 10 months after the March 2020 announcements of stay at home orders. This historical event shone a ray of light on the lives of many during a time of uncertainty. With the mass distribution of COVID-19 vaccines across the country, we can now see a reflection of the vaccination efforts in New York beginning to unfold in the city of Pittsburgh as well.

On the same day that Lindsay received the first COVID-19 vaccine in the country, 67-year-old Advanced Nurse Practitioner Charmaine Pykosh at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) was the first in Pittsburgh to be administered the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Pykosh was followed by four other UPMC employees — Sylvia Owusu-Ansah, Christian Schott, Ja’Ray Gamble, and Manevone Philavong — all of whom “represented different sectors of the health system’s workforce.”

Upon the initial administration of the vaccine on Dec. 14, 2020, the Pennsylvania Department of Health set forth a plan about further vaccinations which will be implemented in every area of Pennsylvania except for Philadelphia, where the city’s large population leaves funding and planning for the COVID-19 vaccination in its own hands. The plan outlines the order in which the COVID-19 vaccination will be administered to the residents of each city. While health care workers have been claimed to be the first of the Pittsburgh population to receive the vaccine, these workers are closely followed by “vulnerable seniors at long-term care facilities.” Following senior citizens is the third group of people to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, which will consist of essential workers and first responders. However, the extent to which this plan has become public ends there; the order of the administration of the vaccine to the remaining residents of Pittsburgh has yet to be determined.

Despite the long ordeal that awaits in making the COVID-19 vaccine available to the general public, Pittsburgh has already taken steps towards the vaccination of the entire city over the past few weeks. As of Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021, only about four weeks after the administration of the first COVID-19 vaccine in Pittsburgh, nearly 24,000 vaccines have been given in Allegheny County alone. Even more promising is that about 100 of the 24,000 vaccines have been given to unaffiliated or private healthcare workers by the Family Matters Direct Primary Care located in Allison Park. Unlike the UPMC healthcare workers, these 100 or so workers are those “who are not part of a larger healthcare system that was providing the vaccine to employees.”

The journey is definitely far from over. However, just like March 2020 placed a painful mark on the calendar, December 2020 brought about a renewed sense of hope not only in Pittsburgh, but also across the nation. Though it still cannot be said for sure what the future has in store, the creation of a COVID-19 vaccine has brought the world steps closer to the finish line.