Highlands Vaccinates 1,000

Highlands Vaccinates 1,000

Matt Mascia, Highlands Hospital pharmacist, is making that request of people who have joined the Fayette County COVID-19 Task Force’s vaccination list.

Mascia, with help from many Highlands officials, employees and community volunteers, planned and conducted the hospital’s appointment only vaccination clinic Saturday at Connellsville Area High School.

Approximately 1,000 people were vaccinated, including Gary Ulery of Youngwood, who was “happy” to finally get it.

Mascia said most people vaccinated

Saturday were registered on the list compiled by the Fayette County COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force — along with a handful of Highlands employees.

Highlands distributed the Pfizer vaccine, and all recipients were in the Phase 1A category for distribution.

Those who received the vaccine over the weekend will return in 21 days (March 6) in their same scheduled time period for second doses, Mascia said.

Mascia chose the Pfizer vaccine because the hospital has the “ultra freeze” capacity needed for storage.

Highlands Hospital nurse Karen Parlak prepares a COVID-19 vaccination. Photo courtesy of Mike Parlak

Providers without that capability receive the Moderna vaccine, which doesn’t require the same low-temperature storage requirement.

Another appointment-only clinic is scheduled Saturday, and Mascia said calls will begin this week to set appointments.

Highlands is receiving help from others in arranging appointments, and he is encouraging people who receive calls from unfamiliar numbers to pick up, because it might be an opportunity to receive a vaccination.

Among those scheduling appointments will be staff members of state Sen. Pat Stefano and state reps. Ryan Warner and Matthew Dowling.

Mascia said about a thousand vaccinations will be administered at this week’s clinic.

“We are making a dent in the county list,” he said. He suggested it is the most effective path to a vaccination.

At last glance the list had topped 13,000 names.

COVID-19 vaccine recipients sit in the auxiliary gym at Connellsville Area High School after receiving their shots during the Highlands Hospital clinic. PHOTOS: Roxanne Abramowitz | The Daily Courier

Mascia said other vaccine clinics are being scheduled this week throughout the county by other facilities, including Uniontown Hospital.

He acknowledged the work of the task force and how coming together as a team is driving the process.

Mascia said without the help of Highlands employees and volunteers from local medical offices, Saturday’s clinic would not have run as smoothly.

“Everyone is working together. It’s all hands on deck,” he said. “I run a hospital pharmacy. I don’t do mass-event planning. But it was a community need and we found we could do this. We took the lead, and in a week, we did this.”

Connellsville Area School Board’s approval to use the high school made the process much easier logistically, Mascia said.

“The school district has just been great,” he said. “They have gone above and beyond in helping us.”

Mascia said Fayette officials recognize the public’s frustration and said the task force is working hard to make the vaccination process easier.

Highlands Hospital personnel, along with volunteers from other local medical offices, distribute COVID-19 vaccine at Connellsville Area Senior High School.

Creating a single list of names for local vaccine providers to access has helped to streamline the process.

Providers mark off names to ensure other providers are aware those people had been contacted.

“When they started the task force, they pulled the hospitals in and we were honest and vocal with what we could do,” Mascia said, recognizing the county’s goal of being pro-active with the vaccination process.

Mascia said that after Highlands’ two planned clinics and second-shot clinics have been concluded, the hospital will look at other distributions, but maybe not on the same scale.

In addition, future distribution depends on the amount of vaccine Highlands can obtain.

To register on the county list, go to www.fayettecountypa.org/795/Individual-Registration.