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LVHN holds mass COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Dorney Park

More than 3,000 people were able to get their first dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine in the Lehigh Valley.

LEHIGH COUNTY, Pa. — The weather is warming up, but the lines of cars and people waiting to get inside Dorney Park near Allentown were not there for the roller coasters.

They were patients getting their first dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine.

"No problems, no problems. I really didn't feel it. It went fast. I am just glad I'm here, and I am glad everyone else is here," said Kathy DeBellis, Hazleton.

At this drive-thru clinic, 3,600 Pennsylvanians were vaccinated.

It's the largest Lehigh Valley Health Network has held to date. 

The hospital started holding mass clinics earlier this year, but it was only able to get 1,000 people fully vaccinated.

"It's all been about allocation," said Dr. Tim Friel, LVHN infectious disease specialist. "Thankfully, over the last few weeks, we started to see an uptick in the number of vaccines that have been sent our way. We went through a darker period for maybe about three or four weeks when the state was trying to readjust with changes in the distribution chain from the national stockpile, which dried up, to direct delivery from the pharmacy. I feel like we are getting out of those dark days and now seeing a little more consistency."

People who came for their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine tell Newswatch 16 they are grateful they are also scheduled for their second.

Bernadette Gabis from Weatherly tells Newswatch 16, it's been challenging finding an appointment.  She's thrilled that in just a few weeks, she will be fully vaccinated.

"I just kept checking and checking, and I happened to hit Pocono, and it came up that there was an appointment, and I quickly grabbed it. It was really, really just trying, trying, trying, and I just lucked out," said Gabis.

Once appointments went live online, spots filled up within three hours.

"It's been a nightmare. That's why we came from Pocono Pines all the way down here. We couldn't get it locally," said Dawn Urgaris from Pocono Pines.

Monroe County is one of the lowest counties in the state when it comes to the percent of population vaccinated.

"Monroe County has been one of the priority areas for us. All of those individuals have been able to get vaccinated at our LVH-Pocono campus as well as some of the practice sites throughout the Pocono region, but we don't restrict who comes were to any zip codes. We make it widely available, so we have had people from the Pocono region, the Hazleton region, Pottsville region," said Dr. Friel.

Many people Newswatch 16 spoke to told us they didn't care how far they had to drive as long as they could get that shot.

"To get it, I am willing to drive a distance. Some people do not feel that way, but I am willing to drive the distance," said Raymond Kay, Long Pond.

Doctors tell Newswatch 16, they understand people are frustrated with how difficult it's been to schedule an appointment.

"Whenever we have slots available, we are making that clear on our website. The banner on the website goes green; we tell people slots are open. It goes red when the slots are closed, and we let people know they are coming back, and we will keep them posted," said Dr. Friel.

You can also schedule an appointment with the health network by calling the COVID-19 hotline at 833-584-6283.

All 3,600 people who came to get their first dose will be back here in South Whitehall Township at the start of next month to get their second.

RELATED: How to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment in Pennsylvania