Bucks County officials are frustrated with new guidelines opening vaccine eligibility to 3.5 million Pennsylvanians while shortages remain.
The state’s Vaccine Task Force leader Cindy Findley announced the update late Tuesday afternoon.
“Pennsylvania is expanding our vaccination efforts to start including anyone over 65 and people ages 16-64 with serious medical conditions that make them more at risk for severe illness due to COVID-19,” said Findley.
However, even the statement from the PA Department of Health recognized this would not speed up distribution.
“It is important to note that while the number of people eligible to get vaccinated is expanding, the allotment of vaccine doses that Pennsylvania is receiving from the federal government is not increasing.”
The sudden change in plans did not please the Bucks County Commissioners. A statement from the county said it “caught public officials and citizens off-guard.”
Commissioners Chair Diane Ellis-Marseglia said there was not “anywhere near an adequate supply of vaccines.”
“It is very frustrating that the federal and state governments keep identifying more and more citizens who are priorities for the vaccine without providing the vaccine or even any dates for possible deliveries,” said Marseglia.
Originally, the Health Department laid out a plan with several phases. Phase 1A prioritized medical workers and residents of long term care facilities.
Then less than two weeks ago, the Health Department updated the plan. It added Phases 1B and 1C.
Phase 1B included people ages 75 and older, essential workers, and individuals with significant health issues. Phase 1C included people ages 65-74 and high risk individuals.
Bucks County officials were not expecting to enter Phase 1B or 1C until at least February.
The change essentially skips and scraps the phased plan, creating more confusion about who is eligible. To address this issue, the Health Department has created a ‘vaccine eligibility quiz’ online.
This quiz has a series of questions, such as the age of the person and what medical conditions they may have.
So far, about 13,000 people in Bucks County have received the first dose of the vaccine. Meantime, just 3,600 individuals are fully vaccinated.