The COVID vaccine, staying healthy, and emergent care during the pandemic


Written by Brian Newcomb, MD, department chair, Mount Nittany Medical Center Emergency Department


Vaccine basics

COVID-19 vaccine distribution roll outs bring with them a huge sense of relief that there is an end in sight to the current pandemic. However, we can’t let down our guard just yet. As we get vaccinated, it will take time for each of us to individually develop immunity to COVID, thus, it will take time for our community to develop herd immunity. I urge you to please get vaccinated as soon as you are able, and remember that it is equally important to continue to practice infection prevention measures such as social distancing, masking and frequent hand washing.


Studies suggest that once you have had the two vaccine shot series – either Pfizer or Moderna – the vaccine is about 95 percent effective at protecting you against COVID. This means that there is a slight possibility for you to get COVID during your vaccination series, and possibly even after you are fully vaccinated. Additionally, while the vaccine may protect you from manifesting the disease, it is still unknown whether it prevents you from spreading an asymptomatic infection to others. The bottom line is, everyone, regardless of whether they have had the vaccine, must continue to practice good infection control. Together, with the vaccine, this gives you the best tools for stopping the spread of the virus.


For the most up-to-date information on the COVID-19 vaccine, visit


Getting the care that you need

As we continue to navigate life with COVID-19, we understand that the need for urgent and emergency care doesn’t go away in the midst of the pandemic. If you have an emergent life threatening condition such as chest pain, difficulty breathing, weakness, or traumatic injuries, please call 9-1-1 or come see us in the Mount Nittany Medical Center’s emergency department. We are standing by, ready to treat all of your urgent and emergency healthcare needs. We continue to take extra measures to ensure the safety of patients, staff and providers, including masking, visitor limitations and enhanced cleaning measures.

In an effort to improve access and convenience as well as serve patients who may still be hesitant to come in for services, Mount Nittany Medical Center also offers 24/7 virtual ER visits, with no appointment needed. Virtual ER visits offer a safe, convenient option for common urgent care needs. Virtual ER visits are available to both new and existing patients of all ages for common acute conditions such as urinary tract infections, seasonal allergies, pink eye, upset stomach, rash/skin issues and other urgent care needs. Additionally, the emergency department can screen for COVID symptoms and, if the care provider recommends it, order an outpatient COVID test to be scheduled at your convenience through the Medical Center’s drive-through test collection site.

It’s important to understand that virtual visits are not recommended for life-threatening or disabling conditions. If you believe you or a loved one is having a medical emergency, please call 9-1-1 or seek care at your nearest hospital.

To start a virtual ER visit, go to, click the link for “Start Virtual ER Visit,” and follow the prompts. After discussing your concern, you and your provider will determine the appropriate treatment or next steps, which may include calling in a prescription to your pharmacy. If your case is too complex for an emergency telehealth visit and warrants a more detailed work-up and treatment, your provider may recommend that you come to the emergency department in person for further evaluation.


For less serious health concerns – for those who don’t prefer in-person visits at this time – we encourage you to try a telehealth visit health concerns. You can learn more at


Whether your next visit is in person or online, please know that we look forward to serving you and keeping you and your loved ones safe and healthy.