With vaccine supplies and new COVID-19 infections both on the rise, Bucks County this week opened a fifth mass vaccination site.
A limited opening of the former Giant grocery store in the Warwick Square shopping center on York Road began Monday. Operated on an appointment-only basis by Bucks Department of Health staff and trained medical volunteers, it is the county’s largest site to date.
The Warwick Square location supplements four other sites operated through the county’s partnership with AMI Expeditionary Healthcare. Three have operated since Feb. 16 at the Bucks County Community College campuses in Bristol, Newtown and Perkasie. The fourth site, at the former H&M store at the Neshaminy Mall, opened March 13.
Those sites have combined to administer 52,685 doses of vaccine through Saturday, including 10,771 last week. Countywide, 264,645 doses had been given by all providers in Bucks, enough to fully vaccinate 93,759 people and to partially vaccinate 86,135 by the end of last week.
The Warwick Square location, made possible by a recent influx of vaccine supply from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, should significantly boost those totals when fully operational.
County officials recently received 20,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine from the state. Shipments of J&J doses were promised last week when the state abandoned plans to open its own regional vaccination sites, opting to distribute its supply to individual counties.
That shipment followed the county’s largest one-week allotment of vaccine to date last week. County providers received almost 31,000 doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccine last week, more than half of it going to the county health department. Unlike Pfizer and Moderna vaccinations, which require two doses, Johnson & Johnson vaccinations are administered in one shot.
Bucks County last week cleared its wait list of people eligible for Phase 1A of the vaccine rollout who had pre-registered with the county. County officials have now begun contacting 1B- and 1C-eligible people who had pre-registered, asking them to schedule their vaccination appointments. More information is on the county’s vaccination information portal.
The ramped-up vaccination effort comes at a critical time, as new COVID-19 cases continue to climb throughout the county and the rest of Pennsylvania.
The state health department reported 1,964 new infections in Bucks County last week, an 8 percent increase over the previous week, raising the pandemic total to 52,149. The seven-day average on Saturday – 282 new cases per day – was the county’s highest in more than two months.
The death rate has not increased along with the case numbers. Seven deaths were reported last week in Bucks. The pandemic death toll now stands at 1,183 lives lost. Hospitalizations remain 50 percent higher than a month ago. On Saturday, 96 COVID patients were hospitalized in Bucks County, 11 of them on ventilators.
“Our hospitals continue to remain in very good shape,” said Dr. David Damsker, director of the Bucks County Health Department. “While cases are indeed up some, there is a trade-off between these increases and finally allowing people to go back to some of their ‘normal’ activities. Pushing through as many vaccinations as we can, along with some immunity from natural infection, will soon get us where we want to be.”