State outlines preparations for COVID booster shots

Allegheny County releases ZIP code data on vaccinations.

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PublicSource has been tracking COVID-19’s spread on a daily basis since March 2020. More than a year later, in an effort to direct our resources into enterprise reporting on the pandemic and other important issues, we will cover the Allegheny County Health Department’s weekly briefing on Wednesdays and update the numbers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. We may adjust as the prevalence of the coronavirus ebbs and flows. If you have questions or comments, please email PublicSource’s managing editor halle@publicsource.org.

Pennsylvania's top health official said Tuesday that the state is prepared to begin administering COVID-19 booster shots if and when the government gives the go-ahead. The CDC is expected to give guidance following its meeting on Sept. 22 and 23.

Last week, an independent FDA panel recommended against giving boosters to the general population but said they are worthwhile for some vulnerable populations.

“Vaccine providers — especially pharmacies — have already done a tremendous job administering more than 12 million vaccines across the state," said acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam. "Now they are ready to get booster shots to people as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

Last week, the Pennsylvania Department of Health announced that, since January 2021, 97 percent of COVID-19-related deaths and 95 percent of reported hospitalizations due to COVID-19 were in unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated people.A release from the Health Department Tuesday said there are more than 2,000 providers in the state with COVID-19 vaccine inventory.

— By PublicSource reporter Charlie Wolfson

Vaccinations and breakthroughs

According to state data, released last week 97% of Pennsylvania’s COVID-19-related deaths since January involved individuals who were unvaccinated or partially vaccinated. Statewide, unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people have accounted for 94% of reported COVID-19 cases and 95% of hospitalizations with COVID-19 listed as the primary diagnosis during the same period.

About 23% of Allegheny County’s new cases in August were “breakthrough” cases, in which a person contracted the virus despite being fully vaccinated, based on analysis of the best available data. This is an increase from the summer, when breakthrough cases made up 18% of new cases in July and 7% of new cases in June, Health Department Director Dr. Debra Bogen said at a Wednesday briefing.

About 10% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Allegheny County were vaccinated, and local COVID-19-related deaths remain uncommon among fully vaccinated people, Bogen said. 

“In other words, the vaccines continue to do their job: protect from serious illness, hospitalization and death,” Bogen said.

COVID-19-related deaths have increased overall in Allegheny County throughout the summer, going from 11 deaths in July to 54 deaths in August. At least 21 COVID-19-related deaths have been reported in Allegheny County so far in September, Bogen said.

On Sept. 12, Allegheny County Jail reported its first COVID-19 related death. According to the county, the incarcerated individual had other medical risk factors and had been hospitalized since late August. The individual was not vaccinated.

The Allegheny County Council rejected a proposed mask mandate for indoor and outdoor gatherings with at least 250 attendees on Tuesday. Rather than encouraging a mandate, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald encouraged county residents to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 guidelines, which include wearing masks in areas with high numbers of COVID-19 cases like Allegheny County. 

About 71% of Allegheny County residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

— By PublicSource intern Amelia Winger

Vaccination data

Allegheny County in August released COVID-19 vaccination data by ZIP codes, with the county’s top health official saying they would use the information to combat inequity in the response to the virus. 

Bogen said the county would update the data every month. Below is an interactive map showing the percentage of residents aged 10 or older who were at least partially vaccinated as of Aug. 14.

ZIP codes with the highest vaccination rates included Baldwin, Wexford, Upper St. Clair and Pittsburgh neighborhoods Squirrel Hill and Lawrenceville.

The areas with the lowest vaccination rates in the county included Rankin, Braddock and part of McKeesport, each under 45%.

Resources

COVID vaccine resources in the Pittsburgh region

Housing and mental health supports amid COVID in Allegheny County

Allegheny County’s COVID-19 resource page with links to information on vaccines, testing sites and quarantine basics

Allegheny County's map of vaccination sites

(For more information or help with scheduling an appointment through Allegheny County’s Area Agency on Aging, residents can call 412-350-4234.) 

Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout page

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