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Pa.’s botched vaccine rollout is causing ‘tremendous anxiety and mistrust.’ Senate Dems drop centralized registry plan to change it | Monday Morning Coffee

February 22, 2021 7:21 am

(Sylvia Owusu-Ansah, an emergency department physician at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, receives Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, Mon., 12/14/20)

(*This post was updated at 10:15 a.m. on Monday, 2/22/21 to correctly identify Sen. Amanda Cappelletti’s home county. She represents the Delaware County-based 17th Senate District.)

Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
With public frustration over access to the COVID-19 vaccine continuing to increase, and the state’s distribution efforts in utter disarray, a quartet of state Senate Democrats say they have a plan to help reduce that frustration and get shots into people’s arms.

Last week, state Sens. Lindsey Williams, of Allegheny County, *Amanda Cappelletti, of Delaware County, joined by  Maria Collett and Katie Muth, both of Montgomery County, began seeking co-sponsors for a bill that would create a centralized, statewide registration system for people seeking the vaccine. The bill would allow, among other things, “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 vaccination,” the four lawmakers said in a joint statement. The bill mirrors a House proposal sponsored by House Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Ryan Bizzarro, D-Erie, and three more lawmakers.

Two weeks ago, state health officials announced a new “Your Turn” online tool that would allow people to find out when it was their turn to get the COVID-19 vaccine. It would not, however, allow people to schedule an appointment to get the vaccine.

During a briefing with reporters, senior state Health Department Aide Lindsey Mauldin, said the state had resisted creating a centralized registry, arguing that it would not address ongoing supply issues. Last week, officials revealed the existence of a massive shortage of the Moderna vaccine that could affect between 60,000 and 100,000 Pennsylvanians, delaying their appointments as providers tried to calibrate supply and demand, the Capital-Star’s Elizabeth Hardison reported.

From left, State Sens. Judy Ward, R-Blair, Maria Collett, D-Montgomery, and Rep. Bridget Kosierowski.

Collett, pictured centered above, is one of three nurses, now serving in the General Assembly, who are working to address their state’s flailing vaccine rolloutHardison also reported last week. Pictured left is Sen. Judy Ward, R-Blair, and on the right is Rep. Bridget Kosierowski, D-Lackawanna, who also are working on the issue.

“At-risk Pennsylvanians should not be forced to navigate a complicated, competitive appointment system that favors those with free time and computer skills,” Collett said in a statement. “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.”

In that same statement, Williams said the lawmakers’ offices had been “inundated with heartbreaking calls,” from people seeking the vaccine, including an 80-year-old cancer survivor who lacked an internet connection and could not search online for the vaccine. That’s been a documented issue for many, particularly Black and Brown Americans, research has shown.

Speaking to journalists on Feb. 9, the Health Department’s Mauldin said people without an internet connection could contact the agency directly at 877-PA-HEALTH to find out about their eligibility.

Right now, the state is vaccinating frontline workers, people aged 65 and older, and people aged 16 and older who have underlying conditions in the first phase of its vaccine rollout.

JCAA resident Mary Groce receives her first Covid-19 vaccine dose (Philadelphia Gay News photo)

Even with those efforts, “Pennsylvanians continue to feel frustrated and hopeless with the ongoing confusion regarding the COVID-19 vaccine distribution and signup process,” Muth said in a statement, adding that her 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.

Cappelletti echoed that sentiment, noting that the vaccine rollout has “been fragmented, hard to navigate, and has left behind our most vulnerable and at risk populations,” adding that 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.”

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
In this week’s edition of The Numbers RacketAssociate Editor Cassie Miller dives into a PennPIRG scorecard grading the state’s COVID-19 testing efforts. According to the scorecard, the Keystone state earned an F grade for being 22.2 percent toward its testing target, Miller reports.

President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Interior DepartmentU.S. Rep Deb Haaland, D-N.M., is going to face a bumpy confirmation battle, National Correspondent Jacob Fischler reports. Haaland is the first native person picked to lead an agency with a checkered past when it comes to dealing with America’s native population.

State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Philadelphia, who was raised among the working poor, says he’s looking to be their voice in the U.S. SenateStephen Caruso reports.

Pittsburgh advocates have gathered 65,000 signatures for ballot measures that would ban no-knock warrants and limit solitary confinement at the Allegheny County Jail, our partners at Pittsburgh City Paper report.

Philadelphia radio pioneer, Cody Anderson, of WDAS-FM, has died, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

On our Commentary Page this morning, opinion regular Dick Polman has not come to praise Rush Limbaugh, but to bury him, And women of color spend more than $8 billion on bleaching creams worldwide every year, an analysis by a Michigan State University expert concludes.

En la Estrella-Capital, la administración de Wolf le ha pagado a abogados $3.4 millones por dos docenas de demandas electorales. Y esto es lo que necesitas saber sobre la escasez de las vacunas Moderna.

(Flickr Commons)

Elsewhere.
Almost 19,000 Pennsylvania Republicans have left the party since the Capitol riot, the Inquirer reports.
The Post-Gazette takes an in-depth look at how four area businesses struggled to stay open during the pandemic.
Gov. Tom Wolf
 has signed another extension of the state’s COVID-19 disaster declaration, PennLive reports.
Flu cases have plummeted in Pennsylvania during the pandemic, the Morning Call reports.
The York Daily Record has what you need to know about the emerging plan to toll the South Bridge spanning the Susquehanna River along Interstate 83 in Dauphin County.
Animal welfare advocates in Wilkes-Barre say city officials are endangering feral cats, the Citizens-Voice reports.

Here’s your #Harrisburg Instagram of the Day:

 

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A post shared by A donut connisseur. (@multisyn1)

WHYY-FM answers your questions about the three mass vaccination sites set to open in Philadelphia today.
State and county officials say they plan to do more inform Pennsylvania’s Spanish-speaking votersWITF-FM reports.
Erie officials are renewing their push for a marine sanctuary with NOAAGoErie reports.
Thanks to a retired historian in Washington County, an unknown local Black Civil War hero has received the long overdue recognition he deserves, the Observer-Reporter reports.
PoliticsPA runs down last week’s winners and losers in state politics.
Environmentalists are making a long-shot push to ban new factory farms, Stateline.org reports.
Anti-Trump Republicans are having a hard time finding a new political home, Politico reports.

What Goes On.
The Senate comes in at 1 p.m. today. The House is out for budget hearings, which continue before the House Appropriations Committee. Here’s the day’s committee action.
In the Senate:
12 p.m., Senate Chamber: 
Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee
12:45 p.m., Senate Chamber: Transportation Committee
In the House:
10 a.m., House Chamber:
 Department of Environmental Protection
1 p.m., House Chamber: Department of Community & Economic Development

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
Reminding us that there’s no such thing as an ‘off-year’ election, the wheels of commerce grind ever onward.
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Sen. Maria Collett
5:30 p.m.: 
Reception for Sen. Camera Bartolotta
5:30 p.m.: 
Reception for Commonwealth Court Judge Drew Crompton
Hit all three events, and give at the max, and you’re out $6,000 today.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Super-ultra-mega-wicked good wishes go out this morning to Capital-Star Opinion Contributor Lloyd E. Sheaffer who celebrates today. Congratulations, good sir, and enjoy the day.

Heavy Rotation.
And in a related birthday matter, Dream Syndicate frontman Steve Wynn rang in another birthday over the weekend. The Dream Syndicate show at the Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center in 2018 remains one of the most visceral rock shows we’ve ever seen, due, in large part, to the searing leads of guitarist Jason Victor. This morning, however, we’re traveling back to Wynn’s 1990 solo debut, ‘Kerosene Man, for one of the prettiest songs in the history of American indie rock. Here’s the utterly lovely ‘Carolyn.’ 

Monday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
Boston’s David Pastrnak picked up a hat trick during the Bruins’ 7-3 win over Philadelphia during Sunday’s NHL Outdoors game in Lake Tahoe. The B’s had a four-goal second period.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press.

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