New plan could help streamline COVID-19 vaccine scheduling in Pa.

COVID-19 vaccine scheduling could be streamlined in Pa. with new plan

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Four Pennsylvania lawmakers announced plans to introduce legislation that would create a statewide COVID-19 vaccine registration database on Sunday.

The four Democratic Senators, Lindsey Williams (D-Allegheny), Maria Collett (D-Bucks, Montgomery), Katie Muth (D-Berks, Chester, Montgomery) and Amanda M. Cappelletti (D-Delaware, Montgomery), began circulating a co-sponsorship memo seeking support from other members last week. The memo largely echoes the House co-sponsorship memo put out by Representatives Ryan Bizzaro (D-3), Pam Snyder (D-50), Jennifer O’Mara (D-165), and Austin Davis (D-35).

According to a news release, the legislation would create a registry system that would allow Pennsylvanians to register themselves and their loved ones as willing recipients of the COVID-19 vaccine, provide proof of eligibility for a risk category, and delineate how far they are willing to travel to receive their vaccinations. Vaccine providers will then have to register to access this database and give priority to these individuals in making appointments available.

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“This legislation will reduce frustration, eliminate the need to spend hours searching for appointments and permit prioritization of vaccine distribution to our most vulnerable citizens,” the release states.

“Our offices have all been inundated with heartbreaking calls of constituents desperate to protect themselves and their loved ones from this deadly disease,” said Williams said in the release. “From an 80-year-old cancer survivor with no internet access who cannot search for an online vaccine appointment from a long list of individual providers, to a young man with Down syndrome who was turned away from a vaccine clinic despite having an appointment for not meeting the 65+ age criteria, we are failing the millions of Pennsylvanians who need a straightforward, accessible, and consistent way to sign up for their COVID vaccine.”

Collett echoed those sentiments, saying, “at-risk Pennsylvanians should not be forced to navigate a complicated, competitive appointment system that favors those with free time and computer skills. For weeks, my colleagues and I have urged the Department of Health to make changes to the vaccine rollout, including more centralized registration, distribution and oversight systems. A statewide vaccine registration database could help streamline this process and restore our constituents’ faith that, though it may take time, they will receive the vaccines to which they are entitled in a fair and transparent manner.”

Other legislators also called for centralization and more accessible information as part of this legislation.

“This is a vital piece of legislation we are putting forth in response to the immediate public health needs of our Commonwealth. The roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine in Pennsylvania has been fragmented, hard to navigate, and has left behind our most vulnerable and at risk populations,” Cappelletti said in the release. “I’ve joined in pushing for this crucial legislation because the best way to end confusion and improve our vaccine roll out is to centralize the registry and make the process easier for all Pennsylvanians.”

“Pennsylvanians continue to feel frustrated and hopeless with the ongoing confusion regarding the COVID-19 vaccine distribution and signup process,” Muth said in the release. “Our office is fielding a high volume of calls and emails about how people can sign up to be vaccinated and whether their sign up status has changed based on limited availability of the vaccine. Streamlining the signup process is the only way to ensure vaccines are distributed in an equitable, timely, and organized manner, and that distribution data for all 67 counties can be easily found and interpreted and updated daily. The lack of data and inconsistent vaccine allocation from week to week is causing tremendous anxiety and distrust. We must work urgently to ensure transparency, accountability, and efficiency with our process.”

“The call from legislators to take these steps is a clear sign there is bipartisan frustration over the mismanagement by the Department of Health to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to Pennsylvanians. The newly establish COVID-19 vaccine joint task force is working diligently to solve the many challenges facing the Department and improve the vaccine distribution process. The Speaker strongly supports taking necessary steps to improve efficiency and distribution, some of which may take legislation, and some may not, and he looks forward to supporting efforts recommended by the joint bipartisan task force.”
Mike Straub, Communications Director for the Speaker of the House
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