Washington, DC – Today Congressman John Joyce, M.D. (PA-13) and Republican members of Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation wrote Governor Tom Wolf to request answers on his administration’s plan to address the many failures of the vaccine rollout.
Months after vaccine doses began arriving in the commonwealth, the majority of Pennsylvania seniors in long-term care facilities have yet to receive their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and health care providers across the state continue expressing concern about a lack of communication with the PA Department of Health.
“It has been three months since Pennsylvania began administering the vaccine to those in Phase 1-A,” wrote the congressmen. “Despite the initial plan, the vaccine was not made available for those in long-term care settings until two weeks after it was first directed to Pennsylvania’s hospitals and health systems. And today, the majority of those in long-term care have yet to receive their second dose. The vaccine rollout has failed to protect the most vulnerable during this pandemic.
“Furthermore, in hospitals statewide, administrators are concerned about the lack of communication from the Pennsylvania Department of Health regarding the vaccine supply.”
Dr. Joyce continues to advocate for accelerated and equitable vaccine distribution across Pennsylvania. Last week, he sent a follow up letter to Governor Wolf once again citing concerns from community health leaders and encouraging the governor, Acting Secretary Alison Beam, and the administration’s public health leaders to increase clear and consistent communication with local health systems and vaccine providers.
Today Dr. Joyce signed the letter alongside Congressmen Mike Kelly (PA-16), Dan Meuser (PA-9), Scott Perry (PA-10), Lloyd Smucker (PA-11), Fred Keller (PA-12), Guy Reschenthaler (PA-14), and Glenn Thompson (PA-15).
Read their full letter below:
The Honorable Tom Wolf
Governor of Pennsylvania
Room 225 Main Building Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120
March 9, 2021
We write to request details about the Commonwealth’s distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. Specifically, we’ve heard from long-term care providers, hospitals, and pharmacies throughout the state, all expressing frustration with the vaccine distribution and its challenges related to our most vulnerable populations. Just this week Acting Secretary Beam admitted that errors were made in undersupplying the vaccine to certain counties in the Commonwealth.
As you know, on December 11, 2020, the Pennsylvania COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force released a COVID-19 Interim Vaccination Plan. That document outlined a three-phased vaccination program, detailing different categories and priorities based on profession, age, and overall health. Residents in long-term care facilities, as well as those caring for them, were included in that plan’s first phase—Phase 1-A.
It has been three months since Pennsylvania began administering the vaccine to those in Phase 1-A. Despite the initial plan, the vaccine was not made available for those in long-term care settings until two weeks after it was first directed to Pennsylvania’s hospitals and health systems. And today, the majority of those in long-term care have yet to receive their second dose. The vaccine rollout has failed to protect the most vulnerable during this pandemic.
Furthermore, in hospitals statewide, administrators are concerned about the lack of communication from the Pennsylvania Department of Health regarding the vaccine supply. Also, hospitals themselves do not have an adequate number of staff to administer the volume of vaccines expected of them.
Pharmacies have done their best to accommodate vaccine appointments, yet our offices have been inundated by phone calls with complaints of being kicked off appointment websites and expressing frustration with the limited guidance for those over 65 who are currently vaccine eligible.
A well-written plan means nothing if the Commonwealth is unable to execute it.
In light of our concerns, we ask you to provide information sufficient to answer the following questions by no later than March 15, 2021:
- Given that less than 20% of the Commonwealth’s available vaccines have been allocated to long-term care thus far, when will the vaccine allocation be prioritized and increased in long-term care settings?
- What is the Commonwealth doing about a lack of manpower for vaccine administration?
- Is the Commonwealth maximizing utilization of licensed medical professionals statewide for vaccine distribution?
- What protections are in place to make sure the same undersupply problem does not happen again?
- When will lawmakers and the public see results from the Vaccine Joint Task Force?
- Has the Commonwealth considered incorporating best practices from states that have been successful in quickly and efficiently distributing vaccines?
Pennsylvania needs a plan for mass vaccination in this state: sites, clinics, and distributors. The Commonwealth needs to acknowledge its early mistakes and build off of them. Repeating past errors for those in future phases of the vaccine plan is unacceptable. We must decrease the number of cases in our communities, and increase the likelihood of a better, safer tomorrow for all Pennsylvanians.
We look forward to your reply.
CC: Acting Secretary Beam