HARRISBURG – Senator Scott Martin (R-13) urged the Department of Health today to use local vaccine distribution planning efforts like Lancaster County’s planned model and take a more locally-coordinated and efficient approach to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine to more Pennsylvanians.
Martin participated in a joint hearing of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and the Senate Aging and Youth Committee which featured testimony about the difficulties in prioritizing vaccines to all Pennsylvanians, including specific challenges for residents of long-term care facilities. He spoke about the importance of collaboration at the local and county level among health systems, state and local officials and community organizations to provide the vaccine to eligible community residents.
“There are so many hands in this logistical pot that we are stumbling in our own way,” Martin said. “We will not get out of this mess until we do two things: we have to prioritize the vaccine going to our long-term care facilities, and we have to prioritize dealing with this issue within county boundaries.”
One of the hearing participants was Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Michael Ripchinski, who detailed Lancaster County’s efforts to coordinate a strong local effort to distribute the vaccine. Unfortunately, despite Lancaster County having a strong and well-coordinated plan in place with the capacity to deliver thousands more vaccines per day, the supply of doses from the state is not anywhere close to meeting the local demand.
Ripchinski added that the abrupt changes in guidance from the Department of Health complicated efforts to vaccinate vulnerable populations. He said the number of eligible recipients in Lancaster County ballooned from around 25,000 to more than 200,000 when Department of Health guidance was updated to expand the list of eligible recipients three weeks ago.
“When the Department of Health initially set vaccination guidelines for providers, it outlined that the initial limited vaccine supply be given to those most at-risk of illness, such as older adults, health care workers, and Pennsylvanians living in long-term care facilities,” Ripchinski said. “Frankly, the health systems and vaccine providers were not ready for the abrupt change and the public believed that they could now somehow get their vaccination faster than before.”
Martin previously sent a letter along with Senator Ryan P. Aument (R-36) to the Department of Health and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency encouraging the use of centralized vaccination clinics. Ripchinski testified today that this approach could lead to upwards of 5,000 vaccinations per day in Lancaster County.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control data tracker, as of the day of the hearing, Pennsylvania ranked 45th in the percentage of received COVID-19 vaccines that have been administered to state residents.
CONTACT: Terry Trego (717) 787-6535