Saying he wanted to make sure “no Pennsylvanians are left behind,” Gov Tom Wolf on Monday announced a new push to get vaccines into the arms of homebound Pennsylvanians.
During an appearance in Reading on Monday morning, Wolf, joined by administration officials and local lawmakers, said the administration had amended its vaccine administration order to allow vaccine providers to partner with local entities to administer vaccines statewide.
“Pennsylvanians who cannot leave their homes face unique challenges when it comes to vaccine access,” Wolf said. “We need to ensure that no Pennsylvanians are left behind.”
Local and state entities have begun collaborating to find “creative” solutions, said Department of Aging Secretary Robert Torres, who appeared with Wolf.
That includes utilizing local first responders to administer vaccines in-home, partnering with public transportation companies to offer free or discounted rides to vaccine sites, and connecting Pennsylvania’s 52 Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) with vaccine providers across the commonwealth.
“AAAs have been doing a great job collaborating with community partners to help older adults obtain their vaccine appointments. Now, we’re seeing AAAs and counties build upon those successful models to find creative ways to reach seniors who cannot leave home, such as partnering with EMTs and visiting nurses,” Torres said.
Citing an example, Torres noted that In Delaware County, EMTs have been going door-to-door to administer vaccinations.
Wolf administration officials also confirmed that they are working to provide increased reimbursements to providers who offer in-home vaccinations.
“These partnerships break down barriers for seniors, adults with disabilities, and others in our Medical Assistance system who are high-risk and cannot leave their homes, many of whom are lower income or people of color,” Acting Human Services Department Secretary Meg Snead said, referring to the state’s name for Medicaid. “This direct outreach and coordination are essential for an equitable vaccination process and will help us save lives.”
Wolf acknowledged that when vaccine distribution first debuted in Pennsylvania, supply was an issue, now, he says, many vaccine providers have “vacancies,” allowing providers and state health officials to shift focus to getting vaccines to seniors and people whose disabilities may affect their ability to get to a vaccination clinic.
Torres encouraged older Pennsylvanians who need assistance obtaining a vaccine to contact their local Area Agency on Aging.
“Please do not give up,” Torres said to those who have struggled to locate a vaccine provider. “Let us help you.”