Race To Get People Vaccinated In P.A. Amid Slow Roll-out
TOWANDA, P.A. (WENY) — As other states progress with their COVID-19 vaccine roll-out, Pennsylvania remains in Phase 1A, leaving tens of thousands of people in the Northern Tier alone still waiting to get their first shot.
Vaccine distribution has improved slightly in the Keystone state, but officials in Bradford County are struggling to meet demand for the COVID-19 vaccine.
"The last time that we shot some emails back and forth, the state was directing the health care providers to have all of their Phase 1A vaccine appointments scheduled by April 1st," said Matt Williams, public safety and planning director for Bradford County.
Williams says they have been working to get vaccines into arms, but the supply chain isn't consistent.
"Which resulted in not showing up. This was on a Friday afternoon and we had to cancel 700 appointments for a Monday vaccine clinic."
According to Williams, Bradford County officials were told to prepare for a vaccine clinic for people in Phase 1B.
"We spent a week planning that endeavor and then were informed the following week by the state 'well, we're not getting the vaccines we thought we were going to get. We're going to scrap that and go another route'," Williams said.
Governor Tom Wolf said Pennsylvania will skip Phase 1B and 1C to meet the federal deadline of May 1st. County officials are worried the vulnerable population won't be vaccinated before eligibility opens up to everyone, especially for the people who live in areas without internet or cell phone service.
"There are large swaths of our county that exist that way. To this point, by the time they get the information about scheduling an appointment, those appointments are gone. They're gone in minutes or hours."
Williams says the goal is to vaccinate as many people as they can in Bradford County, but he says that's hard to do when the clinics are open to New Yorkers as well.
"It's opened up to communities directly across the border. That includes everything from Elmira, to Binghamton, Courtland and Ithaca. We're talking about hundreds of thousands of people."
In the next month, Bradford County officials are focused on getting people in for their appointments, but Williams says they won't have enough vaccines to reach herd immunity as quickly as they hoped.
"Ultimately, we need to get somewhere near that herd immunity threshold and the longer we drag this out and the more confusing it gets, the longer it's going to take. I was hopeful in February that we would be much closer too. At that time, it sounded like the May 1st deadline was much more realistic. For us here, it doesn't seem like we're anywhere near that," Williams said.
Even if eligibility opens up to everyone in the next month, local officials say they'll have clinics dedicated to the vulnerable population.