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State tracking second vaccines

About 82% of the first doses of coronavirus vaccines delivered to providers in Pennsylvania have been administered already, but only 44% of second doses have been injected into patients’ arms, despite the Department of Health’s policy of ordering those second doses to be delivered just in time for providers to use, according to information provided by the department Wednesday.

The state is trying to get a handle on the issue, according to spokesman Barry Ciccocioppo in a virtual news conference.

“We’re looking into where the doses are and why they haven’t been administered,” he said.

The state recently discovered a problem with some providers using vaccine they’d been sent for second doses as first doses instead — a problem that led to adjustments explained last week — but that presumably wouldn’t contribute to the low percentage of second-dose shots administered, because those doses were administered, even if improperly.

Part of the explanation may be that most providers have 24 hours to report their vaccinations, while the federal pharmacy partners handling long-term care facilities have 72 hours, Ciccocioppo said — although those reporting lags apply to first doses, too.

Another part of the explanation is that the delivery of the second doses isn’t quite “just in time,” but rather a week early, to ensure vaccines are in place when it’s time for providers to give the shots, Ciccocioppo said.

“There’s an extra week built in,” he said. “It’s one of the factors we’re looking at in trying to track down (the issue).”

The state has received a total of 3.17 million doses of vaccine so far, according to a department news release.

Of those, 2 million have been injected into patients through Tuesday — 1.4 million first doses and 585,000 second doses.

This week, the state received 225,000 first doses and 180,000 second doses.

Each is about 40,000 more doses than last week.

Because last week’s winter storms delayed most shipments to Pennsylvania providers, many have been receiving both last week’s and this week’s allotments this week, Ciccocioppo said.

That has complicated the state’s plan to shrink the number of active providers, favoring those doing the most injections, because the cutoff requirement that providers inject 80% of what they get within a week is hard to enforce when they’re getting two weeks worth at once, Ciccocioppo indicated.

The state wants to go from about 780 providers to 200-300, keeping the hospital systems, community health centers, local health departments and independent pharmacies that have been doing the best, while dropping primary care doctors’ offices and other small providers whose performance has lagged.

When vaccine becomes more plentiful, those smaller providers are expected to come back on line.

Meanwhile, all providers will get all the second doses they need to vaccinate people to whom they’ve given first shots, Ciccocioppo said.

The department is looking to ensure that after completion of the federal program to vaccinate residents and staff in long-term care facilities, vaccinations will continue for new residents, new staffers and those who elected not to get a shot the first time but change their minds, acting Health Secretary Alison Beam said

this week.

“We want to maintain consistent vaccination levels in all (of them),” Beam said.

The department doesn’t intend to “disrupt” relationships that many long-term care facilities already have with local pharmacies that can provide vaccinations when needed, she said. It plans to work with facilities that don’t have such relationships to help establish them, she said.

CVS and Walgreens are the federal partners.

CVS has provided two doses to everyone who wanted them in all 500 of the nursing homes that it contracted to serve, and first doses, at least, to all the other long-term care facilities it’s working with, according to Andreas Chandra, district leader for CVS Health, a participant in the news conference.

Walgreens has provided two doses to everyone who wanted them in the 100 nursing homes that it has contracted to work with.

A total of 315,000 doses have been administered through the partnership, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 814-949-7038.

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