The Community Connection

Montco deals with vaccine mistake

- By Rachel Ravina rravina@thereporte­

NORRISTOWN » Effects of a statewide shortage of the second doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine have begun materializ­ing in Pennsylvan­ia’s third most populous county.

As Montgomery County health officials were informed that there wasn’t enough to “cover 5,279 people scheduled for second doses next week,” Montgomery County Commission­ers’ Chairwoman Dr. Valerie Arkoosh said during a press briefing Feb. 17 that they plan to instead switch to the Pfizer vaccine, and begin distributi­ng first doses on Feb. 23.

“I was surprised, furious and disappoint­ed when I got this news, because we had been assured repeatedly that those second doses would be there for this, and as a consequenc­e, we have been giving our first doses as quickly as possible,” Arkoosh said. “We have not wasted any doses, and we did that under the promise that those second doses would be there for us. So this is extremely disappoint­ing.”

The issue could impact 100,000 people, Pennsylvan­ia Department of Health officials

reported during a Wednesday afternoon press conference.

Anyone unable to be accommodat­ed would also be contacted to reschedule their appointmen­t. Arkoosh added the county is communicat­ing with state health department representa­tives to secure additional doses within the allotted maximum window of 42 days approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We will get this done. We will find a way,” she said. “If I have to camp out at PADOH to get doses, we will find a way to make sure we get these second doses.”

In addition to the establishe­d low doses, forecasts of winter weather forced county officials to change up logistics at area vaccinatio­n clinics.

“Issues with decreased supply of vaccine continue to impact our operations, and we are only booking appointmen­ts when we have vaccine available,” said Arkoosh

during a virtual press conference Wednesday.

Montgomery County is currently vaccinatin­g people living or working in Montgomery County in the 1A priority group by appointmen­t only.

The county’s vaccinatio­n clinics are typically open between 8:30 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. Monday through Friday at Norristown Area High School, located at 1900 Eagle Drive in Norristown, and Montgomery County Community College, located at 340 DeKalb Pike in Blue Bell.

According to a county spokespers­on, changes to vaccinatio­n clinic operations will be in effect Thursday, Feb.18, until Monday, Feb. 22:

• Norristown Area High School and Montgomery County Community College clinics will be closed Thursday due to inclement weather.

• Norristown Area High School’s first dose clinic will be closed Friday, and the second dose clinic at the community college’s Blue Bell campus might have a delayed opening due to weather.

• Norristown Area High School and Montgomery County Community College clinics will be open for second doses on Feb. 22.

For more informatio­n about next week’s vaccinatio­n schedule, visit

Anyone whose appointmen­t was canceled due to inclement weather will be reschedule­d automatica­lly, according to Arkoosh, who added that participan­ts will receive two separate emails from noreply@multistate­ one regarding a reschedule­d appointmen­t slot and another confirming the previous appointmen­t cancellati­on.

In addition to health care personnel, the state health department categorize­d eligible participan­ts as people who are 16-to-64 years old with certain medical conditions as well as anyone 65 or older.

As of 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, 165,320 people have preregiste­red, according to Arkoosh. Eligible 1A priority participan­ts can register at COVID-19 under the vaccinatio­n informatio­n button.

Between 256,031 and 257,031 are estimated to still be waiting to get vaccinated, according to county figures. While 26,400 first doses have been administer­ed so far in Montgomery County, 24,063 second doses have been administer­ed. With the capacity to vaccinate up to 1,000 people per day, there’s 2,037 remaining first doses remaining, which translates to roughly two days left.

“As this week demonstrat­es, the logistical challenges of operating our max vaccinatio­n clinics is changing weekly, and I must again ask for your patience and flexibilit­y,” Arkoosh said. “We remain hopeful that vaccine supply will increase over the next few weeks, and we will be ready to ramp up our operations to vaccinate more people as soon as more vaccine is available.”

Arkoosh noted previous issues of people sharing links for vaccinatio­n ap

pointments, which caused bouts of confusion and disorganiz­ation at area vaccine clinics. Arkoosh said they’ve now implemente­d a “single use token.” Participan­ts must bring the number to the appointmen­t.

“This will allow us to eliminate the link sharing issues and prevent individual­s from jumping the line,” she said.

Arkoosh shared progress with the recently establishe­d COVID-19 hotline. While it’s currently available to get more general informatio­n surroundin­g COVID-19, officials are testing a capability to allow for preregistr­ation “by phone with the county for a vaccine.” She anticipate­d it could be functional next week.

The hotline, which also has language line support, is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday at 833-875-3967.

Alternativ­ely, people can email their questions to

In the meantime, Arkoosh urged area residents to be patient during the vaccinatio­n rollout process, and continue adhering to COVID-19 health and safety guidelines such as wearing masks, washing hands and maintainin­g social distance.

“There is definitely more vaccine coming. I hope that eight weeks from now, we have been able to dramatical­ly increase the number of people who are vaccinated,” Arkoosh said. “But between now and then, it is going to be a changing situation from week to week, and the amount of vaccine that we have is dramatical­ly less than the number of people that want it.”

“So while our eligibilit­y is quite large … we are getting tiny amounts of vaccine into the county each week and so it is just going to take some time until we are able to reach all of you who are I hope somewhat patiently waiting for your turn to come,” she continued.

 ?? RACHEL RAVINA - MEDIANEWS GROUP ?? Medical profession­als and others working at the COVID-19vaccinat­ion clinic at Montgomery County Community College’s Blue Bell campus don personal protective equipment.
RACHEL RAVINA - MEDIANEWS GROUP Medical profession­als and others working at the COVID-19vaccinat­ion clinic at Montgomery County Community College’s Blue Bell campus don personal protective equipment.

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