Bucks, Montgomery Counties See Increased Demand for COVID Vaccine

Officials in Bucks County and Montgomery have seen increasing demand for the COVID-19 vaccine at their free clinics as positive cases in the region continue to climb downwind of the fast-spreading omicron variant.

Bucks County spokesman James O’Malley said he heard earlier this week that people were showing up at the Central Bucks area clinic looking for vaccines, although the clinic is closed until to Monday January 10.

“Unfortunately, the clinic staff had to turn away these people because the vaccines are not yet there,” he added. “We hope to see them next week if they don’t get vaccinated elsewhere in the meantime.”

The walk-in vaccination clinics run by Bucks County are scheduled to reopen Monday with additional hours of operation and the addition of a third clinic site at Bucks County Community College in Perkasie. The other clinics are located at Warwick Square and at the Neshaminy Mall in Bensalem.

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The county closed its vaccination sites for 10 days to allow for the transition to a new clinic provider after the contract with the previous provider, AMI Expeditionary Healthcare, expired at the end of last year.

O’Malley said the county will work with the new supplier to assess staff and hours and increase staff if demand warrants it.

Bucks County saw a slight increase in the total vaccine doses given at its clinics in December, when the latest surge in COVID cases swept through the area.

The week between Christmas and New Years holidays saw 3,590 doses administered at the two vaccination clinics compared to 3,146 to 3,346 doses administered in the previous three weeks, according to county data.

Bucks saw another peak in demand for vaccines in the week immediately following the Thanksgiving holiday when it administered 3,534 doses.

Most of these doses – around 75% – were booster shots, which are recommended six months after a person is fully immunized. In addition, 2,657 doses were given to children aged 5 to 11 between Nov. 29 and Dec. 31, O’Malley said.

Bucks County reported 1,139 new positive cases of COVID on January 1, according to data from the state’s health department. This is the highest number of people testing positive in a single day in the county since the start of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, neighboring Montgomery County is seeing an “unprecedented number” of new positive COVID tests likely attributed to omicron, which has overtaken the delta as the main variant of the disease.

Commissioner’s chairperson Dr Val Arkoosh, who announced earlier this week that she had tested positive for COVID, provided an online update on the county’s efforts to fight the disease.

The county’s current positivity rate is above 19% as of Dec. 30, and the county has averaged about 1,000 new positive cases per day in recent weeks, Arkoosh said. On the positive side, 90% of county residents aged 5 and older are at least partially vaccinated.

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As new cases of COVID surged last month, so did demand for vaccines at the county’s four free clinics that administered twice as many doses of the vaccine in December (12,591) as in November (6 074), according to county data.

Montgomery County also administered more than 18,000 COVID PCR tests at its five testing centers in December, more than double the number in November, said Christina Miller, administrator of the Office of Public Health. At the end of last month, the county was performing an average of 1,200 tests per day.

The county is working to expand testing capacity and next week plans to add more than 1,500 weekly appointments to testing centers. He’s also working on getting home antigen testing kits for critical populations and frontline workers, Miller said.

Bucks County does not have immediate plans to open COVID testing sites, but county commissioners announced on Wednesday that plans were underway to purchase and distribute more than 300,000 home test kits.

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