Excela Health on Friday added a phone line as another way for eligible community members to schedule an appointment for a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination.
Chief Medical Officer Dr. Carol Fox said Excela Health continues to vaccinate healthcare workers and is now offering a limited number of appointments to members of the public in Phase 1A of the state’s vaccine rollout — which includes adults older than 65 and those ages 16-64 with select medical conditions.
“All the vaccine that we have received thus far, we have made appointments for,” Fox said.
With Excela Health’s new phone line, Phase 1A residents may call 724-689-1690 on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. to register.
A maximum of two appointments may be made on one call.
Additionally, the phone line will not accept messages or make return calls to individuals requesting information or appointments, according to Excela Health’s website. While there are currently no open slots, Fox said Excela Health will offer more appointments once it receives additional doses.
“We expect to get some (today) or Tuesday. We don’t know which day for sure, and we won’t know the final amount until it arrives — but once it does arrive, we will then offer that many appointments,” she said.
Fox encourages people to check the website “on a regular basis” to schedule an appointment. Once Excela Health receives additional doses and makes appointments available, its website and phone line will be active. There is no waiting list.
“I know that’s frustrating for people. And I know there’s some folks who really feel strongly that we should have a waiting list, but it’s important to recognize that there’s a lot of resources entailed in keeping a waiting list and then notifying people,” Fox said.
Excela Health officials stressed that vaccine supply is not meeting demand.
Fox said Excela Health’s staff is currently focusing its resources on getting shots into arms. The health system is scheduled to administer about 1,500 shots this week, she added.
Excela Health initially offered appointments on its website to individuals older than 75. But after the state Department of Health issued new guidance to vaccine providers, Excela Health expanded its limited appointment offerings to everyone in Phase 1A.
Fox said the health system typically requests 6,000 doses each week from the state — but noted that it has never received that many.
Doses of the vaccine are being administered across Excela Health’s three hospitals: Westmoreland in Greensburg, Frick in Mount Pleasant and Latrobe. Excela Square at Latrobe and Norwin are also providing shots.
Excela Health officials said the health system expects it will have administered 14,000 doses by the end of February.
So far, in Westmoreland County, 27,563 residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while 14,503 have received both doses, according to the state Department of Health. In Pennsylvania, more than 1.4 million residents are partially-vaccinated, while more than 528,000 are fully-vaccinated. Those figures include residents of long-term care facilities, who are part of their own vaccination programs.
About 70% of Excela Health’s staff has been inoculated, with some employees finishing up their second doses, Fox said.
As more of the county’s Phase 1A residents begin to receive their shots, Fox encourages community members to remain vigilant amid the ongoing pandemic.
“Absolutely wear your mask, maintain social distance, wash your hands frequently and don’t go out if you are ill,” Fox said. “And if you are exposed to somebody with COVID-19, follow the quarantine instructions that you are given.”
Fox said residents who receive the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine will likely begin to develop “some immunity” 12 days after the first dose. Full immunity occurs 14 days after the second dose, she added.
“The other piece to remember is the studies that were done with the vaccines are really looking at, once you got immunized, did you get ill with COVID-19? It’s still, we believe, possible that you could be a carrier of covid19 and affect somebody else,” she said.
Excela Health is also working with United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania and Westmoreland County Commissioners to coordinate a county registry to aid in vaccine distribution. While plans aren’t yet finalized for a 211 phone line, similar to a partnership in Allegheny County, Fox said it could help “some vulnerable individuals who may not have internet access, may not even be aware of the vaccinations.”
To schedule an appointment online at Excela Health, go to excelahealth.org and click “COVID-19 Vaccine Information.”