Frustrations mount as Pennsylvanians try to get COVID-19 vaccine

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- It's a frustration felt by many Pennsylvanians: when and where can you get the COVID-19 vaccine? Why is it so difficult to get a straight answer?

Jim Garvey and his wife live in Aston, Pa. They are both over 70 years old and qualify to get the shot.

"We've been going to the websites and filling out the information and we just haven't been getting anything back. It might take two weeks, it might take three weeks, four weeks. Then we hear from our friends, they've been able to get their vaccinations," said Jim Garvey.

Boothwyn Apothecary is one of the small, independent pharmacies which received vaccine shipments from the Pennsylvania Health Department. There is nowhere near enough doses to go around. So far they've received 200 doses in the last three shipments combined.

"Hundreds and hundreds of calls, we have a waitlist of almost 1,000 people long at this point," says Pharmacist Noel Boehm.

RELATED: Track COVID-19 vaccine availability and progress across Pennsylvania

The vaccination wait-list is so long they can't sign anyone else up, no less advertise that they received the vaccines. With a number of senior living facilities in the area, Boothwyn Apothecary's focus now is on vaccinating the elderly.

"It'll take months to go through it with 1,000 patients plus more that we can't even add to it right now," said Boehm. "We hope to put out a mass call to all of our patients once we get the supply, but we haven't been able to do that yet."

In New Jersey and Delaware, you can sign up through the state registry for the vaccine. In Pennsylvania, no such statewide waitlist exists.

Health department officials say Pennsylvania has more seniors and skilled nursing facilities to get through first.

"Our focus is to make sure those folks are vaccinated before we move into any further enhancements," said PA DOH Representative Lindsay Mauldin.

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White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients announces a plan to distribute COVID-19 vaccine doses to pharmacies around the country during a news conference on Tuesday, Fbe. 2.



Another issue: people jumping the line, so to speak.

In Montgomery County, appointment links sent out "PrepMod" have been shared by eligible recipients to others.

The County says: "We use PrepMod because it ties directly into the PA DOH database and reduces the amount of manual data entry for our staff, which is important given the volume of people in our system and the size of the County. Our team is in weekly meetings with PA DOH on how to make PrepMod better and we are committed to working through these issues for our residents. However, it should be noted this system is managed and owned by PA DOH so ultimately it is their system to upgrade."

State Department of Health representative Lindsay Mauldin says PA DOH is aware of the issues.

"That's is the issue that we've seen with the centralized link. It was meant for folks who work in those long term care facilities, and folks were able to forward that out causing a backlog on that link," said Lindsey Mauldin.

Another issue with vaccine distribution comes as people from outside Pennsylvania travel to the state for vaccines.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health explains why it won't place a residency requirement on its vaccinations:

"An individual does not need to show proof of residency. In fact, the CDC shared guidance that requiring proof of residency for receipt of vaccine is prohibited. Because the federal government purchased the vaccine, anyone in a priority group should be allowed to receive it, regardless of their place of residency.

Yes, our dashboard does showcase the vaccines by the individual's county of residence, not by where they received the dose. That's why you can see that there are people from out of state who have received the vaccine.

In Pennsylvania, you can cross county or state lines to receive a vaccine. For instance, someone may work in Dauphin County at a nursing home, but reside in York, so they would be eligible to receive the vaccine through the Federal Pharmacy Partnership as a staff member at a long-term care facility regardless of their county of residence."

This week both Montgomery County and Delaware County Departments of Health received only 1,000 first-dose vaccines. That's compared to a typical shipment of 2,500 doses.
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