Local health leaders say COVID-19 vaccine demand outweighs supply

NORRISTOWN, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- There is continued concern over the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine. As cases continue to rise, so does the demand for the shots, and that is presenting an issue when it comes to supply.

Local leaders say they are anxiously awaiting to see what the new administration will do as it relates to getting more people vaccinated.

County health departments across the area are rejoicing that there is a COVID-19 vaccine, but they all are echoing the same problem; they don't have enough supply to vaccinate those who want the shot.

RELATED: President Biden signs burst of COVID-19 orders: 'Help is on the way'
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President Joe Biden signed a series of executive orders to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccination effort, telling the American people that "help is on the way."

"Every single phone line, in every county department, in all hospitals are inundated. Some phone lines are crashing. Some websites are crashing and we can't speed this up until vaccine comes," said Jeanne Casner, director of the Chester County Health Department.

"We have a lot of people whose expectation was that they would be able to be vaccinated soon and unfortunately, I am sorry to say, that is just not the case," said Dr. Val Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners.

Health leaders in Chester and Montgomery counties say the recent addition by the state to the Phase 1A group, is causing even more of a backup. It includes those over 65 and those 16 to 64 with certain medical conditions.

They say the mandate calls for more people to be vaccinated but not for more doses to be delivered.

"At the current rate that we are receiving vaccine, it could take a year to vaccinate all of the individuals currently in the 1A category," said Dr. Arkoosh.

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"Any vaccine that we have already in the county, especially through the health department, has been accounted for. We already have the appointments on the calendar," said Casner.

Unlike other counties, the City of Philadelphia does not get its doses from the state but the federal government. It's a different agency but doesn't equate to more supply.

"The vaccine that we have gotten in and we've been able to distribute, it has been going pretty well. No big problems, we just need more vaccine," said Jim Garrow with the Philadelphia Department of Health.

COVID vaccine tracker: Track coronavirus vaccine availability and progress across Pennsylvania

Health departments say they understand the frustrations but are asking the public to be patient. Like other counties, Philadelphia says it will be creating a new website where people can register their interest in getting the vaccine.

"By doing this, we will know who these folks are and where they should be, in general, be in line. When their turn comes up, either the health department or a vaccine provider will reach out and work with them to get an appointment scheduled," said Garrow.

On Thursday, President Joe Biden signed 10 virus-related executive orders. He promised to ramp up vaccinations and testing, but in the meantime, stresses it will be months before the majority of Americans can get vaccinated.
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