St. Luke’s University Health Network in Bethlehem said it will be among the initial group of hospitals in Pennsylvania to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Phase 1a of the national effort to get out the vaccine.
Dr. Jeffrey Jahre, infectious disease expert and St. Luke’s senior vice president of medical and academic affairs, said the health network is prepared to receive its first supply of the vaccine this week.
“This is a pivotal moment in our fight against COVID,”Jahre said. “The world has been waiting for this vaccine, and we are on the cusp of being able to provide it.”
He notes that it may be some time before the vaccine is ready for the general public, however.
The quantity will be limited and prioritized based on a structured plan provided by federal and state agencies. The general public’s ability to receive the vaccine is still several weeks, maybe months, away.
During Phase 1a, hospitals will deliver limited supplies of the vaccine to health care institutions around the country and will be administered solely to front-line health care workers, EMS first responders and residents in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes.
“While there are different opinions on whom should be vaccinated first, the CDC and the Department of Health have decided that health care workers, and EMS first responders receive initial priority due to their high risk of exposure to COVID-19, and the need to maintain a healthy workforce to continue to provide care,” said Dr. Peter Ender, MD, St. Luke’s chief of infectious disease.
He said decisions about who in the health care community get the vaccines first are being made by a committee with multiple areas of expertise including a medical ethicist.
The next phase, said Dr. Ender, will include a larger supply and will cover the same individuals from Phase 1a as well as essential workers, such as education, food service and transportation personnel.
Phase 1c will extend the vaccine to those over 65 or those with medical conditions that put them at higher risk.
Additional information about future phases of vaccine distribution will be communicated as it becomes available.