Emily Shearer, a registered nurse in critical care services at Mount Nittany Medical Center, receives the COVID-19 vaccine Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, from Dr. Upendra Thaker.
Mount Nittany Health

Mount Nittany Medical Center received its first shipment of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines this week — 975 doses — and began administering them to frontline hospital staff Friday. WPSU’s Anne Danahy talked with Chief Medical Officer Nirmal Joshi about getting the vaccines while case numbers continue to climb.

A nurse holds a phial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Guy's Hospital in London, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020. On the same day, Penn Highlands Healthcare said it expects to receive its first batch of vaccines in two weeks.
AP Photo/Frank Augstein, Pool

Penn Highlands Healthcare announced Tuesday it expects to receive its first batch of COVID-19 vaccines in two weeks. Frontline staff will get vaccinated first to make sure they can continue caring for patients, according to the healthcare system of six hospitals in rural Central Pennsylvania.

In a press call Tuesday, Andrew Kurtz, the vaccination lead for Penn Highlands, said the healthcare system has been coordinating internally and with the Pennsylvania Department of Health to prepare to distribute vaccines to its staff.

Bernice Hausman is chair of the Department of Humanities in the Penn State College of Medicine. She’s recognized for her research on vaccines and breastfeeding, including why both can be controversial in the United States. She has written several books, most recently "Anti/Vax: Reframing the Vaccination Controversy," which was published last year. WPSU's Anne Danahy spoke with Hausman about what we can learn from past vaccine controversies about the COVID-19 epidemic.

student getting vaccine shot

Penn State has seen about 30 cases of mumps at the University Park campus since January. Of those, all of the people affected had been vaccinated.

Shelley Haffner, infectious disease manager at Penn State, said no vaccine is 100 percent effective for 100 percent of the population.

“There are a lot of unknowns still with this," Haffner said. "We’re working with the Pennsylvania Department of Health who is also working with the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) to look at this because we’re seeing more mumps outbreaks on college campuses in recent years.”


For the first time, Penn State is not letting students register for classes until they’ve shown they have received required vaccines. 

Mindy Krause, with University Health Services, said Penn State’s immunization policy didn’t change this year. What’s new is students who didn’t submit the required information had a hold placed on spring 2018 class registration.

She said at this point in the year, they’re ahead of last year.