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Limited vaccine supply creates distribution woes

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

Efforts to get more people inoculated against COVID-19 are facing the challenge of securing enough vaccines throughout much of the state including in Lycoming County.

People receiving vaccines have gone to any one of the locations scattered around the county, but as yet there is no single site established for mass numbers seeking shots.

Many of those small sites, including senior centers and pharmacies providing the few shots available, limit the types of at-risk people they vaccinate.

Lycoming County Commissioner Tony Mussare said county officials have not given up the prospect of a mass vaccine site.

“It is still in the works,” he said.

Right now, he noted, there continues to exist a shortage of vaccine distribution.

“We are telling people to get vaccines wherever they can,” he said.

Commissioner Scott Metzger agreed.

“The vaccines are just not there in great supply yet,” he said.

At least one site, the Hughesville Fairgrounds, is being considered as a location as a mass vaccine site, he noted.

Commissioners are working with partners that include UPMC and STEP, Inc. to make it happen.

“The main thing is getting the vaccines,” he added. “There are plans being put in place right now.”

Wyoming County recently announced plans to open up a clinic that could handle numerous people looking to get vaccinated.

“Vaccine sites are a great idea,” state Rep. Joe Hamm, R-Montoursville, said.

Up to this point, Gov. Wolf and the state Department of Health, have failed miserably with coming out with a plan to get people vaccinated, Hamm noted.

He referred to a recent study revealing the state ranked 46th among all states in the U.S. at administering the vaccine.

The Wolf Administration has maintained that the poor ranking is misleading without taking into consideration the high numbers of seniors residing in the state awaiting the vaccine.

“Until we have a better supply of vaccines, I’m not sure if makes sense to set up a lot of vaccine sites,” Lycoming County Commissioner Rick Mirabito said.

However, he remains in support of establishing a mass vaccine site.

While there are many locations for shots, they limit the types of at-risk populations that can be vaccinated for coronavirus, he said.

“And again, that is because of the limited numbers of vaccines,” he said. “We just need to be patient and continue with safe practices, wearing masks, practicing social distancing wearing masks, and avoiding large events.”

State Rep. Jeff Wheeland, R-Loyalsock Township, said, “I’m all for anything to help those who want to get the vaccine to get it.”

Wheeland said the big percentage of the vaccines should go to the medical providers, including the hospitals and physician offices.

“Doctors know their patients,” he said. “To me, it’s not rocket science.”

A mass vaccine site, he said, would work to get many people inoculated.

“Maybe it would make sense if the supply wasn’t the issue,” he explained. “It’s appropriate if we had all the vaccines we need.”

Last week, several state Democratic senators said they plan to introduce legislation to create a registry system to allow state residents to register themselves as willing recipients of the COVID-19 vaccine, provide proof of eligibility for a risk category and delineate how they are willing to travel for a vaccine.

The goal, they said, is to help people better navigate the appointment system for receiving vaccines.

“Anything that will streamline the process is worthwhile,” Mirabito said.

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