The Pennsylvania Department of Health has approved Pitt as a vaccine provider, but the University remains unsure about when it will receive doses to distribute, according to Pitt officials.
Melissa McGivney, the associate dean for community partnerships at the School of Pharmacy, said even though Pitt’s application was approved, the University falls in a “very very long line of people who would like to provide vaccines” as demand for the vaccine outpaces supply statewide. She added that Pitt will continue to partner with the Allegheny County Health Department and UPMC to support vaccination efforts.
McGivney discussed Pitt’s vaccination efforts at Wednesday afternoon’s Senate Council meeting hosted via Zoom. Other officials addressed COVID-19 on campus and Pitt’s uncertain budget outlook at the meeting.
In preparation for the vaccine arriving on campus, McGivney said Pitt named its vaccination initiative “PITTCoVax.” The “Co” refers to both “COVID” and “collaborative,” McGivney said. She added that the Petersen Events Center is “ready to go at a moment’s notice” as a vaccination center if Pitt receives doses.
She said this flexibility is important, because it is unlikely Pitt would know they are receiving vaccines far in advance. McGivney also said filling out the vaccine survey Pitt sent late last month is “essential” so the University can quickly get people appointments if it receives a vaccine supply. She referenced an order issued last Friday by the state health department requiring vaccine providers to administer 80% of their first doses of vaccine within seven days of receiving them.
“The timing of when you get the vaccine and how quickly it needs to get out the door, there’s not a lot of time for planning,” McGivney said. “So having a survey like what we have from the COVID Medical Response Office is essential, because when we know we get vaccine we have to start at that moment getting folks into appointments.”
Chancellor Patrick Gallagher echoed McGivney’s request that everyone fill out the vaccine survey. He added that it was “concerning” because the response rates to the survey were initially “quite low.”
“It’s just an effort to try to make sure we have enough information to address the prioritization response that we have under federal or state guidance,” Gallagher said. “You can delete all my messages, but don’t delete the survey.”
McGivney added that Pitt will prioritize vaccination appointments based on the University’s own COVID-19 Medical Response Office committee guidelines — led by Dr. John Williams — as well as state and federal guidelines. Williams said much of the federal or CDC priority list is built on who is most at risk for “the most severe disease or death,” which often involves age.
McGivney also gave a recap of Pitt’s vaccination efforts thus far. She said “the majority” of patient-facing students in health sciences programs along with 5,000 of Pitt’s personnel who fall within the state’s 1A designation — including athletic department trainers and University Counseling Center clinicians — have been vaccinated.
Part of these vaccination efforts were on Jan. 28 and 29 when Pitt — alongside the ACHD — vaccinated over 800 people in vaccination group 1A from Pitt, Chatham University, Community College of Allegheny County, Duquesne University, La Roche University and Pittsburgh Technical College. McGivney said Pitt will give everyone who received vaccines through its clinics their second dose exactly 28 days after their first.
The University and other community organizations also collaborated to vaccinate about 2,000 people aged 65 and older in Pittsburgh’s Hill District and Homewood neighborhoods on Feb. 4 and 5. McGivney said it was because of the hard work of community organizers that this effort was possible.
“It was the communities that brought their communities, and their neighbors to be able to be vaccinated,” McGivney said.