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COVID-19 In Pennsylvania: Gov. Wolf Concedes Vaccine Rollout Isn't Perfect But Says Supply Is The Problem

By: KDKA-TV News Staff

HARRISBURG (KDKA) - Gov. Tom Wolf conceded that Pennsylvania isn't doing "a perfect job" of administering COVID-19 vaccines, but says supply is ultimately the limiting factor.

Right out the gate during a Thursday press conference, Wolf admitted the rollout has been frustrating.

"I know it's not going the way any of us wanted," he said.

Our area has at least one bright spot that the state is highlighting. Butler County has shown success vaccinating people over 65 with none of them missing their appointment so far. The state says Butler County's COVID-19 planning commission has been key to helping about 1,200 seniors.

"One of the reasons this works is that the agency is informed by the health system about how much vaccine is allocated for adults on a weekly basis," Secretary of Aging Robert Torres said during the press conference.

Credit was also given to the Southwestern Pennsylvania Area Agency on Aging. It represents Washington, Greene and Fayette counties. Secretary Torres says it's helping people who don't have a computer or poor internet connections.

"They're also working with PennDOT shared-ride program to ensure a free ride for every adult who needs to get to their vaccine appointment," Torres said.

As for getting vaccines to pharmacies, Wolf made this promise: "If you were administered a first dose, there is a guaranteed second dose coming to you."

Wolf says there are 4 million people in Phase 1A, meaning the state would have to receive 8 million vaccines to finish the first priority tier since Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require two shots. Through Feb. 13, the state has been allocated about 2.4 million doses and has administered a little more than half.

Wolf says Pennsylvania gets about 300,000 doses a week and that the state has a higher population of older adults than other states.

It comes as the Pennsylvania Health Care Association criticized the Wolf Administration earlier in the day for the lack of urgency in rolling out COVID-19 vaccines to long-term care facilities.

"Only less than 20 percent of Pennsylvania's vaccine has been dedicated to the most vulnerable in our nursing homes and long-term care communities thus far," said Pennsylvania Health Care Association president and CEO Zach Shamberg.

"The data is clear: long-term care has been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, yet, providers, workers and residents still seem to be fighting for prioritization for a life-saving vaccine."

Gov. Wolf disputed the data and said 100 percent of staff and patients at nursing homes who wanted the vaccine have gotten the vaccine. He said 70 percent of staff and patients in long-term care facilities who wanted the vaccine have gotten their first dose.

According to the CDC, about 274,000 shots have been administered to Pennsylvanians in long-term care facilities through the Federal Pharmacy Partnership. More than 80,000 people are fully immunized.

Shamberg says the Pennsylvania Health Care Association is calling on state leaders to "bring our experts to the table" to make sure long-term care is prioritized moving forward.

"The state was not part of the initial conversations," Gov. Wolf said about the Federal Pharmacy Partnership. "We adopted the federal program and maybe that's something we and the long-term care facilities should have a conversation with the federal government about this, say, 'maybe there's a better way to do this.'"

The governor didn't offer any specific plan on fixing the overall rollout. He says a bipartisan state task force will meet tomorrow.

For older adults who don't have access to a computer, PA Link to Aging and Disability Resources, which connects older adults and adults with disabilities to services and technical supports, is also stepping up to take calls and offer assistance.

When people call the PA Link for help with getting a vaccine, PA Link counselors will assess the caller's situation, offer guidance and transfer to a scheduling team.

For those callers with transportation needs, the Link counselors will also be able to contact PA Link partners and AAAs at the local level to assist with coordinating local transportation.

The PA Link number is 1-800-753-8827

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