First pictures within the COVID-19 warfare, however we nonetheless face an extended winter of masking and social distancing

Science struck back against COVID-19 in Pennsylvania on Monday when a medical needle was stuck in the left arm of Charmaine Pykosh, a 67-year-old acute nurse at the UPMC hospital system in Pittsburgh.

Pykosh and hundreds of other UPMC employees began the first of two vaccinations shortly after 11 a.m. in an auditorium at the UPMC Children’s Hospital, where – in a bright place in a sometimes bleak year – colleagues could not help but burst into applause when Pykosh waved his thumb up at the cameras.

These were the first steps in bringing the coronavirus pandemic under control both here and across the country, as public health officials work on it first, healthcare workers in “COVID units” and then residents and staff in nursing homes to immunize and other long-term care facilities.

A broader second phase follows as the winter progresses, encompassing key workers, including areas such as police officers, teachers, and public utility workers employed in places such as meat processing plants, as well as those over 65 years of age or older with underlying medical conditions.

“Along with the basics of masking and distancing, and possibly along with therapeutics like monoclonal antibodies that can change what disease means (with COVID-19), I think we are starting to see the beginning of the end,” said Dr. Graham Snyder, UPMC Director of Infection Prevention and Hospital Epidemiology.

But that’s the long run.

For most of us, state officials have put the celebration down a bit: the doses of the newly approved vaccines won’t be available to the public until late spring 2021.

Those in charge of federal Operation Warp Speed ​​said at least 40 million cans (enough to complete the two-shot process for 20 million people, or about 6 percent of the US population) should be available from Pfizer and Moderna – which one Approval expected soon for its vaccine candidate – by the end of the year, with more to follow in early 2021.

In the meantime, State Health Minister Dr. Rachel Levine and other doctors on Monday stated that all Pennsylvanians can currently continue the public health battle by strictly following abatement instructions for public gatherings, wearing a mask when outside your home and following the rules of social distancing.

“There’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” Levine said. “Today is just a great day we’re starting to immunize people against this virus. But it will take time … It will take time to distribute and administer these vaccines through all of our stages to protect the people of Pennsylvania.

“In these winter months, more than ever, we need people who show personal and collective responsibility.”

Levine’s warnings came amid a surge in COVID-19 infections, which the state says shows nearly half of the roughly 500,000 infections detected across the country since the pandemic began in March have occurred in the past 30 days.

According to Health, 5,970 Pennsylvanians were hospitalized for COVID-19 at 7 a.m. on Monday.

UPMC expects thousands of employees on its network to deliver their first dose shots this week. According to State Health Minister Dr. Rachel Levine, they will lead the way in planned nationwide deliveries of 97,500 Pfizer BioNTech vaccine doses to approximately 87 hospitals in 66 counties across the state within a week.

Philadelphia, which manages distribution through its own health department, will receive an additional 13,650 doses.

The first group of hospitals was identified because they demonstrated their ability to handle supercooler storage requirements for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, and they did the necessary work to provide the state with information about completed Provide vaccinations.

This week’s shipments include all UPMC hospitals in south-central Pennsylvania, as well as seven hospitals in the WellSpan Health System and Lancaster General. Penn State Health is due to receive vaccines at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Reading, but not until the week of December 20th for Penn State Hershey Medical Center.

State health officials said Monday the nursing home program, administered by the federal centers for disease control and prevention in partnership with national pharmacy chains Walgreen’s and CVS, is expected to begin the week of December 29 in Pennsylvania.

Snyder said that within UPMC, the first shots will be prioritized to catch those workers who are at greatest risk of catching and transmitting the virus, who are vital to strong supplies from the pandemic, and who may be at the most Most prone to complications are they get sick.

Some of the people who received their first public vaccinations in Pittsburgh on Monday – chosen for their almost constant exposure to the virus in the service of patients – were openly relieved at the extra sense of protection it will provide.

With that in mind, they gave a glimpse into a less worrying future.

“I go in there (to work) to help clean, check things out, make sure everything is as clean as it should be, and I think it would just calm me down knowing that I have an extra layer of protection against the PPE we wear, ”said Manny Philavong, a 46-year-old environmental service worker at UPMC Passavant.

“When I get that shot, I really calm down a little more.”

An equally important part of Monday’s public show was showing the public how normal the process will be.

Dr. Sylvia Owusu-Ansah, an emergency room doctor at UPMC Children’s Hospital and African American, said she volunteered to be part of the first recipient corps to dispel suspicions about the vaccine in color communities.

“I wanted to let my community know that it was okay. That this vaccine is what we have to do to protect ourselves, to keep us healthy and to keep us alive, ”said Owusu-Ansah.

All must have a second follow-up visit in four weeks to complete the vaccination process.

The Pittsburgh cans were among the 3 million cans shipped in staggered batches from Pfizer’s Kalamazoo, Michigan factory this week. This is part of the largest public health vaccination campaign anticipated by health historians the world has ever seen.

Several other countries have also approved the vaccine, including the UK, which started vaccinating last week.

Since emerging as a threat in early 2020, COVID-19 has infected millions – with pandemic deaths in the US of nearly 300,000 – and hit the economy hard with thousands of unemployed and changed routines in school and civic life.

The Federal Food and Drug Administration, which is widely believed to be the strictest medical oversight agency in the world, said the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine appears safe and highly protective last week and put the data behind it in a one-day public meeting for scientists and consumers last week see dar.

“Please folks, when you look back in a year and say to yourself, ‘Did I do the right thing? ‘I hope you can say,’ Yes, because I looked at the evidence, ‘said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday. “People are just dying. How could you possibly say, “Let’s wait and see.”

However, the emergency means that the vaccine was cleared for widespread use before a final study of nearly 44,000 people is completed – and that the research continues to try to answer additional questions. Although it is effective against COVID-19 disease, it is not yet clear whether vaccination will stop the symptom-free spread that accounts for half of all cases.

Her immediate status as a health pioneer was not lost to Pykosh, the Pittsburgh nurse, as she prepared to get back to work.

“We had some kind of text vote and everyone thought I should go first,” she said, referring to colleagues in her unit. “It was exciting, relieving, and as I said before, I am honored to do so.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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