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Frustrated Lawmakers Allege Pennsylvania Health Department Failing To Provide Enough Vaccines For Suburban Philadelphia Counties

DELAWARE COUNTY, Pa. (CBS) -- Local lawmakers say it's a question of fairness. They're concerned the Philadelphia suburbs aren't getting their fair share of COVID-19 vaccines. It's an accusation the Pennsylvania Department of Health says isn't true.

Frustration boiled to the surface Monday after dozens of state and county lawmakers blasted the Pennsylvania Department of Health for what they allege has been a failure to provide enough vaccine doses to suburban Philadelphia counties.

"Every day that we prolong getting the right amount of vaccines here in our county is a day that we are putting people's lives at risk," State Rep. Jennifer O'Mara, of Delaware County, said.

Eyewitness News on Monday interviewed lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Nobody was happy with the health department's late Sunday afternoon phone call.

"Here in the southeast, we are 25 to 26% of the population of the Commonwealth of PA, and using their own metrics, we've received about 21% of the vaccine doses," Montgomery County Commissioner Kenneth Lawrence said.

"Myself and 13 colleagues today called on them just to turn the whole distribution over to the National Guard," State Rep. Frank Farry, of Bucks County, said.

The phone call was intended to explain the formula for vaccine allocation in Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery Counties. State representatives said they left what was only an hour-long call confused and with only more questions.

"I'd say frustrating. It was a very frustrating phone call. We were expecting answers," Lawrence said.

Delaware County Councilman Kevin Madden said the state health department could clear all of this up in three steps — show the exact metrics on vaccine distribution, explain how counties that are lagging with vaccines are made whole, and lastly, make sure no county in the state moves to phase 1B until all in 1A get their shots.

Have officials been transparent?

"No, they have not been. Transparency would mean providing your math," Madden said.

The department on a reporter phone call and also in an e-mail Monday rejected that it hasn't been transparent and said claims that the suburbs had been under-allocated were the result of skewed data.

State and county lawmakers are sounding off, saying that the health department has not been transparent with its COVID vaccine distribution. They also say that the suburbs are being overlooked.

"Going forward, we are committed to supplying more vaccine to all the counties as the allocation of vaccine increases to the state," one member of the health department said.

Skewed data — that's what the health department is saying after reports showed suburban neighborhoods were under-allocated in COVID-19 distribution during a news conference Monday afternoon.

"We know that all four counties surrounding Philadelphia, people in the county are receiving the vaccine at or above the statewide average of 15%," the health department member said.

Back on Feb. 10, Dr. Ala Stanford, the founder of the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, came out and addressed the issue of suburban residents coming to underserved neighborhoods to be inoculated.

"If I live in an affluent neighborhood where the positivity rate is low, and I come to an underserved community to get vaccinated, then I take my vaccinated self back where the positivity rate is low, that's not changing the transmission rate at all," Dr. Stanford said.

The supply is low and the demand is high. Dr. Stanford pointed out another part of the problem on Monday.

"You need to know your demographic and your population. So, if you know one area of Pennsylvania has the higher positive rate, has had the highest death, then that's where you need to focus on," said Dr. Stanford.

Some lawmakers are now calling on the National Guard to take over the commonwealth's vaccine distribution. They claim that the health department has not been transparent -- a claim the health department denies.

CBS3's Joe Holden and Kimberly Davis contributed to this report.

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