The pandemic that has upended so much of our lives is far from over. But at long last, an end is in sight.

Just one little pinprick (and then another booster shot several weeks later). Covid will be over when enough people get the vaccines.

That, however, could take a while and no, they’re not available to the general public yet.

But people belonging to organizations in the Phase 1A category (healthcare personnel and residents of long-term care facilities) may now apply for shots of the Moderna vaccine. A new, second point of vaccine distribution opens today at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh—Monroeville Convention Center. The first vaccination site is at Allegheny County Health Department clinic Downtown.

DoubleTree Hotel by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh—Monroeville Convention Center. Photo by Mike Machosky.

The queue starts in the lobby, goes down a long hallway, and leads into a room with six vaccination stations, separated by black curtains.

“We’ll have six vaccinators on-site for most of the day, and the vaccinators will see your name in the system and come out and retrieve you, the same as it is in a doctor’s office,” said Kim Joyce, deputy director for administration of the Allegheny County Health Department. “Every station will be wiped down between each client.”

After the shot, everyone must wait 15 minutes in the waiting area to make sure there are no allergic reactions. If recipients have a history of allergic reactions, they are asked to stay 30 minutes, to make sure there are no adverse responses. They will have EpiPens and oxygen on-site, just in case.

“There will be a temperature-controlled cooler on-site, and vaccines will be pulled from that cooler as needed,” said Allegheny County Communications Director Amie Downs.

Vaccination station. Photo by Mike Machosky.

At the DoubleTree, they’ve scheduled 100 vaccinations for Wednesday, 200 for Thursday and 320 for Friday as the process gradually ramps up.

The vaccine will be given out as it becomes available.

Over 1,000 organizations have already applied to have their personnel vaccinated. To qualify, they have to work in Allegheny County. Other counties will set up other systems for vaccination.

Meanwhile, the Health Department continues to reach out to eligible organizations — and they can apply on their own at the county’s Online Support Center. The process requires creating an account and then submitting a COVID Vaccination Request.

Solo medical practitioners can also complete the form at the county’s Online Support Center.

It’s estimated that there are nearly 1 million PA residents who qualify as Phase 1A. Once that group is vaccinated, then Phase 1B will start. That includes first responders, critical workers and people with high-risk conditions, and anyone over 65). Other locations will be announced.

Phase 2 will commence when an anticipated larger number of vaccine doses becomes available. It will go to Phase 1 critical populations who were not yet vaccinated, and others with additional high-risk conditions. Phase 3 will be the general population. There’s no timetable yet for these additional phases.

A Covid vaccination fact sheet explaining the different Phases in detail can be found here.

The state’s Covid-19 Interim Vaccination Plan can be found here.