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2021 News

Commissioners, Legislators Challenge State Officials Over Vaccine Supply

March 8, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The Bucks County Commissioners joined other county and state elected officials from Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery Counties in a one-hour meeting Sunday with Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam and other Wolf Administration officials over the allocation of COVID-19 vaccine in the four Southeast Pennsylvania suburban counties.

Afterward, the regional officials released a statement characterizing their meeting with Beam as “disappointing and frustrating.” The statement called for state officials to better document the allotments of vaccine flowing throughout Pennsylvania, and to provide the Philadelphia suburbs with a larger share of it.

The meeting, long sought by elected officials, was arranged after The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Feb. 27 that the four suburban counties have received far lower state allocations of vaccine than their substantial populations merit. 

All four counties consistently have received from the Pennsylvania Department of Health far smaller amounts of vaccine than requested, while less-populated counties elsewhere in the state have received disproportionately large amounts of Pfizer and Moderna vaccine.

According to officials in attendance, Beam disputed that the Philadelphia suburbs have been shorted by the state. Beam also pledged, the officials said, not to allow other Pennsylvania counties to move into the 1B phase of vaccination until all other counties have ample supplies to fully vaccinate their 1A populations.

Smaller-than-expected allocations in Bucks and other counties have led to long waiting lists and postponements of some second-dose appointments, creating frustration and anger among residents. Dr. David Damsker, director of the Bucks County Health Department, said the department received only half of the Moderna vaccine amount he had requested from the state last week, causing some second-dose appointments to be put off for two weeks.

Sunday’s discussion with Beam, conducted via Zoom, came after repeated requests from county officials and state legislators for a meeting to explain and remedy these evident inequalities. 

After the meeting, elected officials from the four-county region issued the following statement:

The meeting with the PA Department of Health was both disappointing and frustrating. 

There remains a lack of transparency on the total doses that have come to our counties from every source. Therefore, we have no way to assess how the data presented to us today was calculated, and how those calculations have been used to determine the number of doses that have been allocated to our four counties. Additionally, we were not given any indication of the plan to make up acknowledged shortfalls to certain counties going forward. 

Acting Secretary Beam did confirm that no county will move to vaccinate people in Phase 1B before sufficient vaccine has been made available to all counties to fully vaccinate residents in Phase 1A who wish to be vaccinated – with the exception of teachers and educational support personnel who are directly receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine from the State.

Together we call on Acting Secretary Beam to swiftly do the following:

  1. Create a publicly available chart showing the amount of vaccine from all sources, including Federal partnerships, that has been delivered to each county each month; a description of the “County Index” that PA Department of Health is currently using to allocate doses to each county; and how the Index has been applied to each County since it came into use in January.

  2. Explain how and when counties that are lagging in vaccine delivery will receive additional vaccine.

  3. Explain how vaccine providers will be monitored going forward to ensure that no vaccine provider moves on to vaccinate 1B individuals (beyond the teachers and educational support personnel noted above) until all counties in the Commonwealth have received sufficient vaccine to vaccinate their 1A population.

According to state figures, Bucks County providers received 13,810 doses from the Department of Health last week after getting more than 20,000 the previous week.

Of the 119,160 total doses Bucks has received from the state in the past 12 weeks, 21 percent has gone to the county health department – the rest to Bucks hospitals, pharmacies and other providers. 

Through the end of last week, 82,156 people in Bucks had received at least one dose of vaccine, including 41,452 who have been fully vaccinated.
Vax by age

The county continues to schedule people in the 1A classification of the vaccine rollout, and is currently processing those who pre-registered on or before Jan. 17. More information, including a link to pre-register for vaccination, is on the county’s Coronavirus Vaccine Information page.

Meanwhile, the number of new infections ticked up slightly last week, while the rate of deaths and hospitalizations all declined in Bucks over the past week.

A total of 1,110 positive tests were reported from Feb. 28 – March 6, 60 more than the previous week, for a pandemic total of 46,156 cases.

The state reported 13 Bucks County COVID deaths last week, down from 21 the week before, for a total of 1,145 during the pandemic.

COVID hospitalizations dropped to 65 patients by Saturday, down by 10 from the previous week and by 25 over the past two weeks. Thirteen of the patients were in intensive care units, nine of them on ventilators.

Twenty-two percent of the county’s adult ICU beds remained available, along with 31 percent of its medical surgical beds.

To see an interactive map showing Bucks County’s COVID testing locations, please click here.

To see an interactive map showing Bucks County cases reported in the past 30 days, please click here. 

Statistics, charts, links to state health department data and other coronavirus-related information can be found on the county’s data portal: https://covid19-bucksgis.hub.arcgis.com.

Media contact: Larry R. King, 215-348-6413, lrking@buckscounty.org