County officials hit state DOH over vaccine distribution

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times @mikemcgannpa

Graphic courtesy Chester County

Chester County officials addressed public frustration with the COVID-19 vaccine roll out, issuing a statement Friday afternoon, expressing frustration with the state Department of Health’s (DOH) inability to meet the county’s needs.

The statement makes clear that Chester County officials feel the county is not getting its share of vaccine from the state — despite being one of the largest counties in the state and having a well-defined and well-managed system to get shots in arms.

According to state DOH, 318,450 doses were distributed statewide this past week, just 5,700 went to Chester County Health — of 18,500 doses sent to the county this past week.

“As the 6th most populated county in Pennsylvania, Chester County should be receiving more COVID-19 vaccine doses than we are currently getting,” the statement said. “It is not for want of asking. The Chester County Health Department has requested nearly 51,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine since December 17th, and to date, we have received just half of what was requested.”

With some 154,000 county residents eligible for vaccination under the state DOH’s Phase 1A, demand continues to wildly outstrip supply and residents have been scrambling to get appointments for vaccination. Just 14,009 people have been given the first dose of the Moderna vaccine, while 4,220 have gotten their second dose from Chester County Health. Other health care sources — hospitals, long-term care facilities and pharmacies — have been given the lion’s share of vaccines.

Friday afternoon, state DOH officials said they would start shifting supply towards those providers who have been most effective in getting the vaccine into people’s arms, but it would likely take a few weeks for that to go into effect.

Meanwhile, the county is hoping to pressure DOH to speed up the process of boosting supply in the county.

“The Chester County Commissioners are working in support of the Chester County Health Department, and on behalf of all county residents, to appeal to the PA Department of Health on the need for more vaccine in more highly populated areas of the state, and to ask that priority be given to the Chester County Health Department as a vaccine provider,” the county statement said. “We have shared this with our state legislators, so that they can also lobby for our appeal for more vaccine.”

Additionally, County Health is working to streamline the process for getting appointments and plans to add more locations for vaccinations.

“We are also adding to, and improving upon services and programs every day including personalized vaccine appointments that are password-protected, and contracts signed for more vaccine clinic locations across the county that will open as more vaccine doses are delivered to us,” the statement said.

Additional call center capacity will go live next week.

“Next week, we are expanding our call center capabilities – in English and Spanish – to answer questions, pre-register for the vaccine, and schedule appointments when internet booking isn’t an option,” the statement said.

With current supply, County Health estimates 4,380 people in Phase 1A will receive the vaccine each week.

However, the expectation is that supply will increase, boosting that weekly number in the coming weeks.

The county is operating vaccine clinics in three locations – The Government Services Center in West Chester, the Kennett Square Fire Company’s Red Clay Room, and West Chester University’s Sturzebecker Health Sciences Center.

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