|Latest Vaccine News|
Two years ago when I first took office, I knew our nation faced many challenges (in fact, it was why I decided to run). But I think I speak for all of us when I say this pandemic has changed our lives in ways no one could have imagined. I mentioned in my most recent message to you that the overwhelming majority of calls and emails my office received were about vaccine distribution--that still holds true today. It's why I held a Vaccines Town Hall earlier this month, spoke with veterans about vaccines this week, and why the focus of this update is to answer vaccine questions we hear most often.
Let me be very clear. I am deeply frustrated too.
In This E-Newsletter You Will Find:
Bringing Together VA Medical Center Experts for a Veterans Town Hall
Our veterans and their caregivers face unique challenges and deserve direct access to VA and health care professionals to have their questions answered. We were so thankful Angela King-Sweigart from the Lebanon VA Medical Center and Kirk Fernitz from the Coatesville VA Medical Center were able to join us for our town hall. For those who weren't able to attend, you can find the full audio recording here. Our panelists also shared helpful information that we've included below.
For Veterans Who Frequent the Lebanon VA Medical Center
You must be enrolled in VA Health Care in order to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Call their enrollment office for eligibility and information: (717) 272-6621, ext. 6000.
If you are already enrolled in VA Health Care, the best and quickest way to get contacted for the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is to indicate you're interested by signing up at the Keep Me Informed Tool. After signing up, you will be contacted via text to schedule your appointment for your first vaccine.
Lebanon VA Medical Center is currently scheduling for those veterans 65 and older. If you believe you should have been contacted, please reach out to their scheduling line at (717) 272-6621, ext. 5105.
Caregivers are eligible for the vaccine. However, you must be enrolled in the VA's Caregiver Support Program. When the veteran is eligible, you may be eligible as well. The vaccines are scheduled together. If you are unsure whether or not you are enrolled in a Caregiver Support Program, please visit here for eligibility and general information. Their coordinator is Teresa Stump-Klinger, LCSW, (717) 272-6621, ext. 5739.
All veterans enrolled in VA Health Care have a Patient Aligned Care Team. One of the members of their team is a social worker. Social workers can be a resource for veterans. They assist veterans, their family members, and caregivers in resolving housing, finance, mood, relationship, and physical limitation issues in individual, group, or family treatment, whichever suits your needs. To reach your social worker, reach out to your primary care provider at the VA.
For Veterans Who Frequent the Coatesville VA Medical Center
The Coatesville VA Medical Center is now vaccinating veterans 65 and over with Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine. They are offering the vaccine to veterans who are at the greatest risk for infection and severe illness based on the CDC's guidelines and will continue to work their way through the established priority groups.
General Vaccine Distribution FAQs
How can I schedule a vaccine appointment?
Berks County residents can visit the Berks vaccine webpage to locate local vaccine providers. Tower Health, Berks Community Health Center, and PennState Health are currently vaccinating Berks residents.
Chester County residents can register to be contacted when a COVID-19 vaccine appointment is available through the Chester County Health Department. After you complete the form you will receive updates from the health department on vaccine availability and open appointments. If you have additional questions, you can contact their vaccine call center at (610) 344-6225. You can also visit the Pennsylvania Department of Health COVID-19 Vaccine page to see a map of other vaccine providers in our area and contact information for them.
What can those who are elderly, or who do not have access to the internet, do to make a vaccine appointment?
Chester County Department of Aging: (610) 344-6350
Berks County Department of Aging: (610) 478-6500
Residents can also contact the PA Dept. of Health at 1-877-724-3258 for more information on scheduling a vaccine appointment. Only folks who fit under the 1A group are being vaccinated at this time, therefore they are the only ones who can schedule vaccination appointments.
Berks County residents without access to technology can contact:
Tower Health: (484) 659-3000, Mon-Fri, 7:30AM to 5:30PM
Why is Pennsylvania falling behind in vaccinating people?
Pennsylvania has administered the first doses to 9.5% of its population. The main challenge lies in supply. The federal government is responsible with vaccine allocations, not the state. PA has a high elderly population, who fall under phase 1A. This population, which includes roughly 4 million people, are the priority group. Once the supply of vaccine dosages is expanded, PA along with the rest of the country will be able to move along the group phase to ensure that all who wish to be vaccinated can do so.
When will the state begin mass vaccination clinics?
The state’s department of health is working on a plan to begin mass vaccination clinics throughout the state. Once the supply of vaccines improves throughout the country, mass vaccination clinics will be possible. Currently, PA’s bipartisan legislative vaccine task force will be meeting on a regular basis to develop a better distribution plan. Officials and lawmakers will be working with consultants and some in the private sector on the effort.
I heard that Walgreens and CVS will also be conducting vaccinations to the public as well, is that true?
No, Walgreens and CVS are a part of the Federal Pharmacy Partnership for long-term care facilities. This means that these pharmacies have been tasked with coordinating with long-term care facilities, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, etc. to travel to each facility and vaccinate residents and staff.
Is PA participating in the Retail Pharmacy Partnership? If so, who can get vaccinated at these locations?
Yes, Pennsylvania is participating in the Retail Pharmacy Partnership. The retail pharmacy partners are Rite Aid and Topco (supermarket pharmacies such as Shoprite, Acme, Wegmans, and others). Folks can register online for an appointment on the Rite Aid site. Currently, Rite Aid is not scheduling vaccine appointments over the phone. Please visit your local grocery store website to schedule an appointment online or contact their vaccine customer service line accessible through their website. Oupnly folks in the current group phase will qualify for an appointment. Currently, PA is vaccinating those in the 1A group
Should I travel to neighboring counties or states to obtain my vaccine? I have been registering at multiple places at once hoping to get an appointment.
It is recommended that folks do not travel to other states or counties to obtain a vaccine. If you live in Chester County, you should receive your vaccine in Chester County. By travelling to other counties and registering at multiple places at once, you are overwhelming the system and making it more difficult to obtain a vaccine not just for yourself, but for everyone else. If you do decide to travel outside of your county or the state, it is vital that you return to the same location to obtain your second dose of the vaccine. Vaccine providers, counties and hospitals are tracking those who receive their first vaccine dose at their sites to ensure that there are sufficient vaccine doses for those same people to get their second dose. When people get vaccinated at one location and attempt to go to another for their second dose, it vastly delays and disrupts the cycle of vaccine distribution. It is important to do our part in preventing back up that will affect the flow of vaccinations in PA.
Where can I find information about vaccine allocations specifically in PA?
Data related to vaccine allocation in Pennsylvania can be found on the CDC website. Additionally, folks can visit PA’s vaccine data webpage to access information related to specific counties and cities.
There are members of our community reading this e-newsletter who are on the front lines of distributing vaccines to our families, friends, and neighbors. To all of you, we send our utmost appreciation and thanks. This is a monumental challenge, and none of this would be possible without your efforts. As I've said since the beginning of this pandemic, we are in this together. We will continue to provide vaccine information to everyone as it becomes available. For immediate updates, I encourage you to follow us on social media, linked below.
We want to hear from you. Please stay in touch and let us know what you thought of this e-newsletter. As always, we invite you to call one of our offices or message us through our contact form. Feel free to pass this update along to friends of our community so they can keep in touch too.