St. Luke’s University Health Network (SLUHN) will join Lehigh Valley Health Network in offering the COVID vaccine to the public free of additional fees or charges, a SLUHN spokesperson told Saucon Source.
The news came after a vaccine update SLUHN distributed on Wednesday, in which they announced that the network has received approximately 22,000 doses of the vaccines produced by both Pfizer and Moderna.
“St. Luke’s will provide vaccinations without charge,” said Francine Botek, Senior Vice President of Finance. “This is a community service, and no one should be worried about their ability to pay for a COVID vaccine.”
St. Luke’s noted that they have not yet been provided with government or state instruction on their involvement in the public vaccine distribution.
“As a network we are eager to support the distribution of the vaccine to our public community, however, we have not been provided a finalized confirmation on logistics thus far,” a spokesperson for SLUHN said.
The network also announced that the doses it has received were for the first dose of the vaccine only, and that they anticipate receiving the second series of doses in a few weeks. Per government guidelines, individuals who receive the first dose are being scheduled to receive the second dose within three to four weeks.
The health network has been distributing the vaccine to medical first responders and local physicians. They had vaccinated approximately 9,000 people as of midday Wednesday.
Independent physicians unaffiliated with St. Luke’s can get more information on how to get the vaccine through the St. Luke’s Care Network.
Michael Conrad, DMD, a 69-year-old dentist with a practice in Wescosville said he wants to protect his patients and family.
“With having my own dental practice, I’ve taken great steps in ensuring patient safety from installing UV air sanitation to replacing carpeting with vinyl flooring for thorough cleaning,” Conrad said. “I’m also a Type 2 diabetic, and I feel this vaccine is a great help in keeping me safe along with everyone around me.”
St. Luke’s is following CDC guidelines in rolling out the vaccine. They’re offering the vaccine to their employees across all campuses, but are not requiring employees to receive it, and employees do not need to provide a reason for declining the vaccine.
“Vaccines are an important tool in the prevention and spread of diseases like COVID-19,” said Dr. Jeff Jahre, SLUHN Senior Vice President of Medical Affairs.
“While the vaccine is not mandatory, St. Luke’s medical leadership recommends the vaccine as an effective way to protect against COVID-19,” he continued. “It is not a cure, however, and we must remain vigilant and continue our infection prevention practices such as masking and social distancing.”
The public can learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 15, during a virtual town hall co-hosted by state Sen. Lisa Boscola and Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine. Levine will answer questions from the audience, along with a panel of PEMA and Department of Health officials responsible for overseeing the distribution of the vaccine.
Those who wish to attend the free event must register in advance.
The arrival of COVID-19 vaccines in the Lehigh Valley comes at a time when cases and hospitalizations remain high throughout the state.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed Wednesday that there were just under 9,000 new positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 631,333. The 6,022 individuals hospitalized due to the virus represent a total that is more than double the amount of hospitalizations during the first wave’s peak in the spring.
The trend in the 14-day moving average of hospitalizations per day has increased by nearly 5,6000 since the end of September, according to the Department of Health.
The vaccine also arrived amidst growing fear of a second, more rapidly spreading strain of the virus emerging. Currently, the CDC has found no evidence that new COVID-19 variants cause more severe illness or increased risk of death.