Sharon COVID-19 vaccine clinic hopes to reach underrepresented community members

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They were hoping to serve under-reached members of the community, including the elderly and people of color

SHARON, Pa. (WKBN) – Health officials joined forces to provide a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Sharon Sunday. They were hoping to serve under-reached members of the community, including the elderly and people of color.

“Those communities were disproportionately impacted by COVID,” said Dr. George Garrow, chief medical officer at Primary Health Network. “Unfortunately, vaccine distribution and administration has really been inequitable and we do know that there are populations that have been underrepresented in vaccines thus far.”

The vaccine clinic was prepared to vaccinate 1,100 people in Sharon Sunday.

That happened after Allegheny Health Network in Grove City received extra doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

“With the expansion in distribution from the state, we now have the ability to look to other areas of Mercer County and say where is there continued need,” said Dr. David Tupponce, president of Allegheny Health Network in Grove City.

AHN Grove City partnered with Primary Health Network for the appointment-only clinic.

Together, the organizers worked to find people across the Shenango Valley who were elderly, people of color or who had pre-existing conditions that are included in Pennsylvania’s 1A phase.

“We actually reached out to social service agencies, churches, other community members to ask them if they knew of individuals — whether they were our patients or not — that were interested in receiving a vaccine and had those vulnerabilities,” said Garrow.

The hospitals say they found the perfect clinic site in the Buhl Club, both by being large enough and easy for patients to access.

One Hermitage woman, Laura Schwanbeck, who got her first dose of the vaccine described the process as flawless and convenient.

“We were willing to drive if we had to, but this was so convenient and we were really glad it was in our area,” she said.

Everyone who spoke with us is optimistic after Sunday’s clinic, both for future vaccine distributions and after getting the shot.

“We’re already talking about where can we do more of this and find other areas of need in Mercer County and some of the communities that maybe not have had the opportunity to have this kind of an access,” Tupponce said.

“It just gives you a nice feeling, that perhaps things might start to come back to more of a normal than it has been,” Schwanbeck said. “And that’s what we’re looking forward to.”

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