Bucks GOP Lawmakers Tout COVID-19 Vaccine Fairness Bill

A medical worker prepares a COVID-19 vaccine dose. Photo via Bucks County.

A bill to distribute COVID-19 vaccine to counties based on population has been introduced in the state House by a group of Bucks County Republicans.

House Bill 756 is a response to an apparent inequality in distribution of COVID-19 vaccines from the state to counties. Analysis from the Philadelphia Inquirer found massive differences in per capita distribution.

It determined the state is underserving Bucks, Montgomery, Chester, and Delaware Counties.

“Bucks County, fourth largest in Pennsylvania with 628,270 people, had gotten 13,103 doses per 100,000 residents, while Mifflin County, 46th largest with a population of just 46,138 northwest of Harrisburg, ranked third in doses.”

Meantime, Montour County got about 164,000 doses per 100,000 residents. At 61st in population in the state, it received more doses than there are residents within the county.

“Bucks County is being significantly shortchanged in the number of doses due to the administration’s formula for deciding how many doses of vaccine each county receives,” said Rep. Frank Farry (R-Langhorne). “And Bucks County is not alone.”

Several other Bucks GOP House members are co-sponsoring the bill. Reps. Wendi Thomas (Richboro), Craig Staats (Quakertown), Todd Polinchock (Chalfont), KC Tomlinson (Bensalem), Meghan Schroeder (Warminster) and Shelby Labs (Doylestown) are all on board.

More recent data from the PA Health Department shows the trend of distribution heading in the opposite direction of fairness. In an article from Thursday, March 4, the Inquirer noted “Montgomery, Chester, and Bucks Counties had gotten even fewer doses per resident this week than a week ago.”

State lawmakers had expected to hear from state health officials during a conference call Thursday. The state officials reportedly rescheduled at the last minute.

H.B. 756 would also give greater control to local health departments. Lawmakers say this would help to get vaccine to the most vulnerable members of a county.

The group of Bucks GOP members released a joint statement Thursday.

“We are dealing with issues of life and death, which is too important a decision to be left to arbitrary formulas. Clearly, the residents of Bucks County are in just as much danger of contracting the virus and deserve their proportional share of vaccines, but we cannot get a straight answer on how the formula for distributing the vaccine was crafted. We have had conference calls, written a detailed letter and continued to express our concerns and seek answers. The concerns raised by our residents, healthcare providers and county officials have been heard. Now we are left to force responsible actions by the state’s Department of Health by mandating it through statute. What we are proposing is a commonsense approach that should not need to be legislated. By distributing the vaccines based on population we will bring fairness to what is now a patently unfair system.”