'We're not perfect' Wolf observation an understatement for state's vaccine pace

Nurse Sara Muela, left, administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus, center, as Gov. Tom Wolf, right, looks on at a vaccination site setup for teachers and school staff at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading on March 15.

ov. Tom Wolf said he supports President Joe Biden’s goal of opening coronavirus vaccine eligibility to all adults on May 1, but with each passing day, concerns continue to rise that the state’s vaccine distribution and delivery system will not be up to the task.

The May 1 date looms just five weeks away, but in the past 15 weeks since the first doses of the vaccine were delivered to health care facilities and pharmacies across the commonwealth, the state Department of Health has been unable to move beyond the first of its four-phase rollout plan.

Today, Pennsylvania remains in Phase 1A, which provides vaccine eligibility to doctors, nurses, dentists and other health care professionals, as well as people age 65 years and older or those under age 65 who have specific medical conditions. As part of targeted efforts, the state has also invited teachers, front-line workers and first responders to receive shots with the Phase 1A group.

Many people within this first eligibility group have complained it remains difficult, if not impossible, to find and schedule an appointment for the shot.

Meanwhile, those in Phase IB, which includes manufacturing workers, correctional officers, and other essential workers, and those in Phase 1C, which includes food service, construction, service industry and public safety workers, among others, continue to await their turn.

Biden’s May 1 goal essentially jumps to Pennsylvania’s Phase 2, which opens eligibility to everyone over age 16. Based on Pennsylvania’s vaccine delivery performance since mid-December, there are legitimate concerns about what happens when eligibility is extended to all adults.

“We’re not perfect,” Wolf said last week during a press briefing at a vaccine site in Scranton. “We’re still not at a place where every senior — everybody who needs a vaccine, which is all of us — has gotten that. Until we get to that point, I think we need to keep working as hard as we are to figure out the best way to do this.”

Members of the state Legislature are losing patience with the pace set by the governor’s administration. Last Wednesday, the state House of Representatives voted 135 to 66 in favor of House Bill 63, titled the “Vaccine Administration and Distribution Act,” a measure that would permit more qualified health care professionals, including paramedics, physician assistants, dentists, podiatrists, optometrists and students in these and other related fields who qualify, to administer COVID-19 vaccine shots.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Monday that more than 3.9 million Pennsylvania residents have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, that’s just over 30 percent of the state’s population.

There is still a long road ahead with many lives to save. There is no room in this serious health emergency for political wrangling or posturing.

Regardless of the path selected in the weeks ahead, we all must work together — governor and lawmakers included — to ensure that everyone who wants a COVID vaccine receives it as soon as possible.

— The (Sunbury) Daily Item

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