Alison Beam talks about changes the Pennsylvania Department of Health will make to the way the coronavirus vaccines are distributed in the state. (Screenshot)
The state’s vaccination efforts have been criticized in recent weeks.
One of the changes outlined by Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam on Friday is that providers must administer 80% of the first doses they receive within seven days of delivery. Providers who don’t follow that order, and who don’t report data the state asks for, will see smaller allotments in the future.
The state is also reducing the network of providers who receive the vaccine from about 1,700 to 200 to 300. The state won’t send doses to primary care physician offices and small providers, but to larger operations with a track record of vaccinating more people in less time.
“We understand how frustrating it has been to get vaccinated,” Beam said. “I want Pennsylvanians to know that we have heard you and that we are taking bold, decisive action.”
Beam and special assistant Lindsey Mauldin pointed out that the state has overseen a large number of vaccinations being administered in just two months’ time.
As of Friday, at least 1,167,402 people have received their first doses of the vaccines, according to state data. Of those, 356,108 have also received their second dose in 66 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. Philadelphia is overseeing its own allotment and has administered 138,095 initial doses and 62,537 second doses.
More people have received doses, but a lag in reporting exists because health care providers have 24 hours to report any administered doses, and pharmacies have 72 hours.
The state has been criticized, however, because it ranks 41st among the states in the percentage of doses administered. While receiving the fifth most doses from the federal government, the state has administered the sixth most shots.
One of those criticisms has been that the state doesn’t have a centralized registration hub for people to sign up to get the vaccine. Beam repeated state officials’ assertions that one wouldn’t help matters.
She said local providers who have invested in scheduling systems should be trusted in that process.
However, one of the changes the state made is that providers must have both online and phone-based registration systems. The department also wants information about those systems so it can be posted online.
The department also demands that providers follow the state’s phased guidelines. That means no line jumping.
Education professionals wrote a letter to Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday asking to be given priority for the vaccine since schools are continuing to reopen.
Beam said the department wouldn’t change its phases. Teachers are “valued front-line workers,” she said, “in their own way.”
Beam and Mauldin said they still believe the general public will be able to begin being vaccinated by early summer.
Beam said the changes they’re making now are to help make sure that happens.
“We cannot forget that the limiting factor is the supply of our vaccine,” Beam said.
“There is not enough vaccine for everyone who can get it right now. But there will be.”
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