MONTGOMERY COUNTY, PA — New coronavirus cases continue to be found at a high rate across Montgomery County, even as numbers begin to trend in a more positive direction heading into late January. Vaccine distribution is well underway in the county, with a phased roll-out plan that is dependent upon supplies.
Here's what you need to know about the process thus far.
How many have received the vaccine?
Since vaccination distribution began in late December, 26,405 in Montgomery County have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 4,402 have had the second dose, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
The bulk of these have been distributed by Montgomery County at the new vaccine clinic at Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell, while significant portions have also been administered by local hospitals and pharmacies.
Who gets vaccinated and when?
Montgomery County, like the rest of Pennsylvania, is still in the 1A phase of vaccine distribution, and it remains unclear when they'll be able to move into the 1B and 1C phases.
Phase 1A was expanded Tuesday by the Pennsylvania Department of Health to include all residents 65 and older, and residents between 16 and 64 with serious underlying conditions.
The number of new residents added to 1A in the county due to this expansion is 250,000.
The county is currently receiving 5,000 vaccines a day. At the current rate, it could take more than a year to vaccinate all of 1A, Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh warned. Authorities are hopeful that much greater quantities of vaccine become available.
That 250,000 number is in addition to any remaining healthcare workers that still need to be vaccinated.
Officials have expressed hopes that phases 1B and 1C could get off the ground by the end of January. Those phases include, but are not limited to:
Police officers and correctional officers
Public transit workers
Grocery store workers
US Postal Service workers
Housing construction workers
Public health workers
Water and wastewater employees
Individuals in 1B and 1C can pre-register for an appointment to be vaccinated at the Montgomery County website. Registration for 1A is available at the same link.
Pennsylvania and Montgomery County's phased distribution of the vaccine is based on CDC research recommendations.
Where can I get vaccinated?
Currently the county has a public vaccine clinic at Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell. More clinics will be opened as more vaccine becomes available.
Numerous pharmacies and hospitals across the county also have the vaccine and will provide distribution in the future. A full list of these sites is available here.
It's not yet clear where the future county clinics will be located. But as recently as the fall, the county said they had plans in place to utilize the six existing community testing sites, located in Ardmore, Lansdale, Green Lane, Willow Grove, Norristown, and Pottstown, to distribute the vaccine.
And secondly, the county already has in place something called a "point of dispensing" or POD system. The CDC describes these systems, pre-existing in many states, counties, and municipalities around the country, as "community locations at which local agencies dispense and administer medical countermeasures to the public."
Typically, a POD system is a collection of schools, healthcare facilities, and community centers which can transform into such public health sites in emergencies. "There's a big list of possible locations for where this can be done," Arkoosh said at the time.
There is no cost to be vaccinated.
Is it safe?
Yes. A consensus of health officials and leading experts from around the globe have called the COVID-19 vaccine safe.