NORRISTOWN, PA — With residents across Montgomery County eagerly awaiting their turn to receive the coronavirus vaccine, there remain around 10,500 healthcare workers in the county's top priority group yet to be vaccinated.
As of Thursday, the county has about 4,000 doses of the vaccine left, and plans to administer 1,000 per day at the Montgomery County Community College vaccine clinic until the supply runs out. A new shipment is expected within four days. These doses are in addition, of course, to separate, smaller shipments received by local hospitals and pharmacies.
After that, it's up to the federal government and Operation Warp Speed to ship out more. And that, in turn, is largely dependent upon the efficiency with which pharmaceutical companies can manufacture the vaccine.
"Extremely limited quantities of vaccine are available," Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh said, emphasizing how "limited our supply is relative to the need."
"Because of this, we do not have a clear answer as to when we will be will able to start vaccinating people in phases 1B and 1C," she added.
While 1A only makes the vaccine available to healthcare workers, there are a number of other priority groups included in the next waves: seniors, police, other frontline workers, and more. Some of these individuals — anyone over 65, and anyone with health conditions that place them at increased risk — can now pre-register online here for a vaccine appointment in Montgomery County. Those who qualify for 1B and 1C based on occupation cannot yet pre-register, but should be able to soon.
In the past, Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine has guessed that a vaccine may be available to the general public in the late spring or early summer. Arkoosh reiterated that hope Wednesday.
The county has canvassed the number of individuals in the 1B and 1C population groups in an effort to better understand the infrastructure needed to vaccinate them. It could also provide a hint as to how long it will take the vaccine to get to the general public in the local area.
There are 84,238 county residents between the ages of 65 and 74, officials said, and there are another 66,793 who are 75 and over. Additionally, there are 16,598 teachers and essential school staff, and 1,400 police officers.
That means there are at least roughly 170,000 individuals in the 1B and 1C groups in Montgomery County that need to be vaccinated, in addition to the remaining 10,500 1A individuals.
In recent days, Levine has expressed the "tension" of balancing between prioritizing the most at risk groups on the one hand, and getting as many doses into as many arms as possible, on the other. These difficulties will doubtlessly inform policy in the coming weeks and months as officials determine when to move into the second phase.
As of Thursday afternoon, there have been 21,049 partial doses administered in Montgomery County, in addition to 2,671 full doses.