DOYLESTOWN >> A fourth Bucks County-operated vaccination clinic opens this week at Neshaminy Mall, supplementing three community college sites that have operated since Feb. 16.
Through last week, about 19,500 vaccine doses had been administered at the Perkasie, Newtown and Bristol campuses of Bucks County Community College.
With the addition of a fourth site, and the expectation of increasing vaccine supplies from the state, Bucks County Health Department Director Dr. David Damsker said the sites could offer more than 10,000 first- and second-dose appointments this week.
The Neshaminy Mall site alone could handle up to 1,000 vaccinations per day, roughly double the capacity of each of the other sites.
Damsker estimated that the county has given approximately 25,000 shots since the vaccination rollout began, including a prior clinic to inoculate healthcare and EMS workers on the campus of Woods Services.
The expected increase in local vaccination numbers comes after Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday ordered that all people eligible for 1A status be given an appointment for their first doses by no later than March 28. The order does not mandate when the vaccinations must be given, only that all 1A eligible people be scheduled.
After Wolf’s announcement on Friday, the Bucks County Commissioners issued a statement seeking a clearer picture of how much vaccine the county will be receiving before scheduling people for appointments weeks in advance.
“It all depends on confirmed supplies of ample, incoming vaccine – something we have not yet received,” the commissioners’ statement said. “Like the governor, we share the frustrations of residents who have waited many weeks in vain for a vaccination appointment. But just scheduling a date does not assure when the vaccine will be there for them.”
Bucks and other suburban counties outside of Philadelphia spent much of the past week prodding state officials to rectify the disproportionately low amounts of vaccine that have been sent by the state to the region.
By the end of the week, the Pennsylvania Department of Health had sent 20,660 doses of vaccine to providers in Bucks County, a 50 percent increase over what was sent the previous week. Of that, 9,080 doses went to the county health department.
Over the 13 weeks of the state vaccine rollout, about 40 Bucks County providers have received 139,820 doses from the state, about one-fourth of which has gone to the county health department. The rest has gone to hospitals, pharmacies and other providers.
The amounts reported by the state do not include separate federal vaccine shipments that have gone to pharmacies for use at long-term care facilities or to supply other pharmacy partnerships. Nor do the state numbers include quantities of Johnson & Johnson vaccine sent directly to the Bucks County Intermediate Unit for inoculation of school employees.
A total of 53,019 people in Bucks County have been fully vaccinated, while 48,815 have been partially vaccinated. The county ranks fourth in the state in the number of vaccinations it has administered.
The county continues to schedule people in the 1A classification of the vaccine rollout, and is currently processing those who pre-registered on or before Jan. 20. An estimated 120,000 people eligible for the 1A vaccination phase continue to wait for appointments through the county.
More information, including a link to pre-register for vaccination, is on the county’s Coronavirus Vaccine Information page.
Last week’s COVID numbers continued to be encouraging, with ongoing decreases in the numbers of deaths and hospitalizations.
Similar trends statewide prompted Gov. Wolf to announce Monday he will further lift restrictions on restaurants, gyms and entertainment venues such as theaters and casinos. Effective April 4, all can increase their businesses to 75 percent occupancy.
Restaurants can also resume serving alcohol without requiring accompanying food purchases, and will be able to do so after 11 p.m.
“Pennsylvanians have stepped up and done their part (to) help curb the spread of COVID-19,” the governor said. “Our case counts continue to go down, hospitalizations are declining, and the percent positivity rate gets lower every week – all very positive signs. The number of people getting vaccinated increases daily and we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel.”
Damsker said he was encouraged by the governor’s announcement.
“Getting capacity back to our businesses will hopefully strengthen their ability to regain their economic footing,” he said. “No matter what happens in the future, the state should try to limit the types of mitigation efforts that put the onus on specific businesses.”
Ten Bucks County COVID deaths were reported last week, down from 13 the previous week and less than half the number of two weeks ago. The pandemic total stands at 1,155 deaths.
Sixty-two COVID patients were in Bucks County hospitals through Saturday, 15 of them in intensive care and nine on ventilators.
A total of 1,027 positive tests were reported from March 7 – 13, 83 fewer than the previous week, for a pandemic total of 47, 183.
Statistics, charts, links to state health department data and other coronavirus-related information can be found on the county’s data portal: https://covid19-bucksgis.hub.arcgis.com.