Tuesday morning, the Pennsylvania Department of Health announced they’d expand Group 1A to include those over age 65, and those 16-64 that have underlying conditions.
Then, the frenzy began.
Social media was abuzz with people saying they tried to schedule appointments to get vaccinated.
Seventy-two-year-old Nancy Mackin lives in Brentwood. She and her siblings sprung into action.
“My sisters and brothers, I have five of them, we all were on, like, texting immediately, that everybody found a different site. So we all started to explore these sites,” Mackin said.
They tried providers across the city and nearby pharmacies to try and get something scheduled. A few hours, broken links and pangs of disappointment later, no definitive scheduled vaccination for Mackin and her siblings.
“It’s creating this rush. This mayhem that we’re in right now. Everybody’s in the same, how do you get it, and people that really, really need it. I feel bad for,” Mackin said.
Mackin fought tears telling Pittsburgh’s Action News 4 she wanted to get the vaccine so she could hug her grandchildren. She doesn’t understand why the announcement was made yesterday.
“The government should have had this set up a lot better than they did. That’s what I’d really like to say, what they did for us as the general public, they did nothing. They sent us out there into this mayhem,” Mackin said.
Pittsburgh’s Action News 4 also spoke with Dean Bradley. He’s a Dravosburg native, frustrated by the rollout and even more frustrated that political leaders have gotten the vaccine.
Bradley, who served in the Marine Corp, is 70 and might have luck getting his shot at the Veterans Affairs hospital, but won’t for one reason: If his wife of nearly 50 years can’t get the shot, he won’t either.
“They treat me like I’m the President [at the Va]. But I’m not going to get a shot without my wife. That’s not fair, that’s not right. We’re a team. Where I go, she goes,” Bradley said.
Despite the announcement, all of Western Pennsylvania’s health care providers wrote a letter to the stat Tuesday saying they appreciated the expansion of Group 1A, but need an increase in supply to get needles into arms.
“There has been a tremendous increase in attempts to schedule vaccinations,” said Dr. Don Yealy with UPMC, “It’s perfectly understandable. It’s very difficult to accommodate even the scheduling requests, let alone the actual vaccination requests.”
UPMC said they were still working through the original Group 1A, front-line medical workers and those in long-term care facilities. Yealy said they’ll then prioritize the most vulnerable of the ‘new’ Group 1A, hopefully getting to them by early February.
Allegheny Health Network says it’s nearly done vaccinating its front-line medical workers, and will now prioritize those who are 75 or older and have had cancer treatment in the last year.
“We still have to prioritize, in other words, everyone who’s in that group who heard the announcement yesterday won’t be able to have a vaccine today, tomorrow, next week, the next few weeks, until more vaccine supply comes,” Yealy said.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald tells Pittsburgh’s Action News 4 there’s been planning and coordination for when large numbers of doses do arrive.
“It’s frustrating, yeah. People want the vaccine, and we’re hearing this from our medical providers, AHN, UPMC, St. Clair, Heritage Valley, Dr. Bogen is frustrated. It’s about product. We’re ready with distribution, we’re ready with sites, we’re ready with volunteers, doctors, nurses, retired doctors and nurses, student doctors and nurses, ready to put shots in arms. We just need the product,” Fitzgerald said.