Harrisburg, Pa. − January 22, 2021 −Senator Lindsey M. Williams released the following statement:
“Our Pennsylvania Department of Health and PA Emergency Management Agency have been working diligently to develop a COVID-19 Vaccination Plan and to roll out vaccinations to the most vulnerable among us. But after more than 10 months of the uncertainty and hardships that this pandemic has brought us, Pennsylvanians are confused and anxious to receive a vaccine, and they deserve clearer communication and more concrete answers. I am asking the Department of Health for a transparent, clearly communicated, and efficient vaccine distribution plan for Pennsylvanians.
There is a dire need for Pennsylvanians to be able “sign up” to be notified of when they are eligible to receive a vaccine and where they can receive it. It appears as though Philadelphia residents have been able to sign up through a website, and individuals are receiving calls telling them if they can make it to a vaccination site within a short period of time, they’ll be able to receive a vaccine. We need that sort of notification for all Pennsylvanians. Nearly a million Pennsylvanians have already downloaded the COVID Alert PA app to their phones– this would be a good opportunity to use this existing app to allow individuals to sign up for the vaccine.
We need to partner with our small, local pharmacies to assist with distribution. Many of our communities don’t have access to or a relationship with a large corporate pharmacy, but they do have a local pharmacist who is qualified and able to administer vaccinations. These pharmacists know their patients and are in a better position to provide vaccines as a part of their ongoing care. Other states, like West Virginia, have done exactly this and seen much success. Pennsylvania needs to follow suit. We cannot leave this incredible resource untapped in a task of this magnitude and importance.
I understand that we are at the mercy of vaccine distribution plans that are determined on the federal level and that we are trying to administer every vaccine that we are given. Here in Allegheny County, we have the good fortune to have a large number of healthcare workers, who make up the bulk of Distribution Phase 1A, which is where efforts are currently being focused. This means that our vaccine allocation is quickly used in protecting our front line health care workers. While it makes sense to prioritize the very small number of vaccines that we are receiving, our residents still need more guidance as to when and where they can expect to receive their vaccines.
And our residents also need to be assured that these vaccines are being used responsibly. We have all heard and read reports that UPMC is vaccinating healthy, young administrative employees who work from home or have absolutely no patient interaction. This only adds to the immense frustration felt by all of us, as we search for answers as to when our seniors and those with pre-existing conditions will be able to get their vaccines. I understand that there is a delicate balance between enforcing guidelines and getting vaccines into arms as quickly as possible. Flexibility is needed. However, some level of accountability is also needed – especially when it comes to UPMC, who has eroded the public’s trust. The priority list was established for a reason and entities should be held accountable for distributing vaccines to the most vulnerable first.
Pennsylvanians deserve clear and direct communication from our government about when they will be able to receive a vaccine and assurance that this procedure is being carried out fairly and equitably. They do not have the time or energy to watch press conferences or to read press releases to find this information. Pennsylvania must catch up to other states in ease of vaccine distribution and communication. I urge the Department of Health to take additional steps to make acquiring the COVID-19 vaccine easy and accessible for all Pennsylvanians.”