Merski demands answers, accountability at vaccine rollout hearing

Calls on pharmacies to implement clearinghouse

HARRISBURG, Feb. 8 – At a House Policy Committee Hearing today, state Rep. Bob Merski demanded answers from state officials regarding why the COVID-19 rollout is leaving so many eligible residents still waiting for a vaccine.

Merski, D-Erie, called for greater consistency and a rollout that prioritizes the community’s most vulnerable.

“Today at the Policy Committee hearing on the vaccine rollout, I questioned state health officials about confusing and inconsistent rollout measures,” Merski said. “Residents are growing increasingly frustrated as it seems the rules of the game – including who is eligible for the shot and who is getting it – are being changed midway through.

“We need greater accountability and consistency, and we need answers when providers decide they are not going to follow the CDC guidelines, because with a limited supply of vaccine, it’s critical to make sure doses are getting into the arms of the most vulnerable residents. We are hearing that it may still take weeks before nursing and personal care homes residents are staff are fully vaccinated.

“In addition to urging officials to make those vulnerable residents a priority, I also urged the state to put a priority on teachers who are already in the classroom teaching and have preexisting conditions. Having taught in the classroom for 19 years, I know there is little free time to spend trying to make those calls. We need to do what we can to help them register so they can continue teaching without feeling that they are compromising their health in doing so.

“Finally, I called on pharmacy representatives to do more when it comes to improving vaccine registration for older adults, many of whom do not have access to the internet. We need to be meeting the needs of everyone on the technological spectrum, from the digital natives to those who don’t even own a computer. Often, those folks in the latter group are the ones who need it most.

“A central clearinghouse or a one-stop-shop system would help ensure registration efforts do not leave some eligible residents out in the cold.”