Pa. lawmakers grill DOH officials on vaccine rollout

Written by on February 26, 2021

Pa. lawmakers grill DOH officials on vaccine rollout

By  Sam Dunklau / WITF

February 26, 2021

A nurse holds a phial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Guy’s Hospital in London, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020. U.K. health authorities rolled out the first doses of a widely tested and independently reviewed COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday, starting a global immunization program that is expected to gain momentum as more serums win approval. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, Pool)

Tensions are flaring at the State Capitol over the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s handling of the coronavirus vaccine rollout.

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During a state House budget hearing, lawmakers of both parties vented frustration over how, when and where the Department of Health has been coordinating with providers to administer vaccines.

State Rep. Clint Owlett (R-Bradford) says nursing home patients are still confused about when they’ll get their shots.

“It didn’t have to be this chaotic and it didn’t have to be this unorganized. Communication does not have to be a problem. Logistics do not have to be a problem, but they are,” Owlet says. 

State Rep. Austin Davis (D-Allegheny) says the lack of a statewide registry for vaccine appointments is also causing problems.

“This is just creating chaos. It’s contributing to a lack of equity in the way the vaccine is being distributed,” Davis says.

Acting Secretary Alison Beam says the Health Department is balancing the slow pace of vaccine shipments with the need to fully vaccinate Pennsylvanians.

“It’s not just the permission to go and get a vaccine, it’s we want to get them vaccinated. And so, to the extent that there are forthcoming investments from the federal government, meaning more supply, or new vaccines, we can have those discussions but we want to make sure we don’t set up a false premise,” Beam says.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Pennsylvania has gotten nearly 3.5 million vaccine doses and so far has administered around 2.4 million doses. 

The Department of Health says it’s asking for more state funding for local health departments and state health care centers to support vaccinations and other programs.

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