Pennsylvania has no plan for centralized COVID vaccine signup, health officials say
Since Pennsylvania received its first doses of the coronavirus vaccine in December, health executives have called on the state to create a centralized registration portal to help people schedule COVID-19 vaccine appointments.
Yet, the Department of Health stands firm in its opposition to this idea, claiming that it would not solve the primary challenge faced by Pennsylvania right now, which is a limited supply of the vaccine.
Department of Health Senior Adviser Lindsey Mauldin said that the commonwealth is not considering a centralized vaccination registration system currently.
"We’re dealing with a limited supply of vaccine coming into Pennsylvania. This is a problem that is happening all over the country," Mauldin said during a news briefing Tuesday. "So a centralized registration wouldn’t help with that issue."
Mauldin's comments echoed those made by acting health secretary Alison Beam last week. Beam noted that a centralized system would potentially present significant technical hurdles.
Pennsylvania's lack of a clearly delineated timeline to distribute the vaccine meshed with a patchwork national rollout that differs from state to state has left many in the state — particularly the elderly who do not live in nursing homes — wondering why and for how long they will have to wait.
Local health networks say they have fielded many calls from Pennsylvanians wanting to know when it will be their turn. After all, long lines have formed in states such as Florida, which is distributing the vaccine to seniors on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Even those who have had a say in the Pennsylvania's rollout plan fear the state may be getting left behind.
"I hate being in the middle of any pack. I want to be at the top of the pack, and we’re going to continue to work together," Gov. Tom Wolf said during a previous news conference. "There’s no question we need to do a better job."
An analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data found that Pennsylvania has been slower to use all its shipped doses of vaccine than more than 45 other states.
Pennsylvania has administered just over 62% of the doses it has received, according to the analysis. And as of Tuesday, the Department of Health was reporting that 1,352,248 doses of the vaccine have been administered to 1,049,609 people.
According to the DOH, 1,049,609 people have received their first dose of vaccine, and 302,639 people have received their second dose of vaccine.
At a House Health Committee hearing last week, Beam agreed the rollout could be moving at a more rapid pace, but she added that speed was not the primary objective. In the long run, she said, it may only be a matter of weeks that separate when an eligibility group in one state or another vaccinated.
Distribution will be ramping up, and the state should be receiving 175,175 doses this week.
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