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UPMC to open vaccine clinic

Website, phone line opened up to secure spots on wait list

UPMC will open a vaccination clinic today at Station Medical Center, with a website and a phone line for signing up and securing a spot on a waiting list — a protocol that could take some of the stress and frenzy out of the effort to get an appointment for a shot.

Many people desperate to be vaccinated have reported spending hours on the phone with multiple providers, many of which are unable to offer appointments for lack of doses, and some of which have made appointments they had to cancel. Callers sometimes make multiple appointments, which leads to no-shows when they end up getting shots elsewhere.

The UPMC setup will allow people currently eligible for vaccinations to take their places in line, even if the organization doesn’t have enough vaccines to offer appointments right away, according to Mike Corso, vice president for operations at UPMC Altoona.

“It has a calming effect to know it’s coming,” Corso said. “To know they’re on the list, and that at some point the vaccine will become a reality.”

Anyone in Phase 1a — health worker, anyone 65 and up and anyone 16 to 64 with a qualifying health condition — can get on the waiting list and set themselves up to be contacted for an appointment by registering at vaccine.UPMC.com or by calling 844-UPMCVAC (844-876-2822) — although the organization would prefer people who can manage online registration to use the website, to keep the phone lines open for those who can’t easily use a computer.

“This gives them hope that as soon as the vaccine is available in their market” they’ll be able to set up an appointment to get it, Corso said. That way those people who have been full of anxiety can get back to a semblance of normality, he said.

The waiting list will not be ordered strictly by the sequence in which people register, but will be sorted also based on age and health condition, to favor people more vulnerable to COVID-19, according to UPMC Altoona spokeswoman Danielle Sampsell.

Older people and those with various comorbidities have been hospitalized and have died at higher rates from the coronavirus throughout the pandemic.

In addition to fielding registration requests, the organization plans to send out invitations to register to all those in Phase 1a who have interacted with UPMC over the last three years — via lab work, surgery, doctor visit, etc., according to Corso.

Based on the same rationale that will help govern the waiting list order, the invitations will begin with the oldest UPMC users, according to Sampsell.

In addition, the order of the invitations for those between 16 and 64 with comorbidities may take account of those comorbidities, Corso indicated.

The organization won’t give its prior patients preference within the waiting list, Corso said.

The Station Mall clinic will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. A clinic at UPMC Bedford Memorial will be open from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

UPMC could expand clinic hours and add locations when more vaccine becomes available, Corso said.

While there will be just one master waiting list for the entire, sprawling UPMC organization, appointments will be offered based on registrants’ ZIP codes, so an Altoona resident would be invited to make an appointment at Station Mall, Corso said.

The organization will only set up appointments when doses are available to fulfill them, Corso said.

The organization is not charging for the vaccinations and is not asking people to present insurance cards, Corso said.

Although there are multiple ways to register and there is the potential for one person’s name to get on the waiting list more than once, people don’t need to worry about that, because the organization will “consolidate” the names, Corso said.

The registration process was piloted successfully at UPMC’s Hamot and Susquehanna, Corso said.

The organization has mostly completed vaccinating its own employees and non-affiliated health care workers in its territories, officials indicated.

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

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