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As Pennsylvania's vaccination plan accelerates and more than a third of the state's eligible population is vaccinated, Governor Tom Wolf today visited a new vaccination clinic in McKeesport to talk about vaccine equity and progress.
"Since Pennsylvania providers began receiving vaccine in late December, our state has made immense progress," Gov. Wolf said. "Pennsylvania has moved up in state rankings for vaccine distribution over the past several weeks, and we now regularly rank in the top 15 of states for first-dose vaccinations."
The clinic in McKeesport at the Bethlehem Baptist Church, focused on serving a population that may have barriers to vaccine access, is essentially a neighborhood clinic with plans to vaccinate between 100 and 200 people each day.
It is the fourth clinic to be opened by Allegheny County in conjunction with its health department and a local community – two larger clinics and now two community clinics.
The governor was joined by County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Rev. Earlene Coleman of Bethlehem Baptist, Sen. Jim Brewster, Rep. Austin Davis, and McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko.
"Throughout this pandemic, we have been grateful to so many partners, big and small, whose help has been instrumental in allowing us to control the spread of the virus and reach those who are most vulnerable in our community with vaccine," said County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. "Thanks to Governor Wolf and the PA Department of Health, we have more vaccine for those in our community. And thanks to Rev. Coleman and Bethlehem Baptist, we are able to reach the members of this community where they are, ensuring they are protected against the virus."
While demand for vaccine still outweighs the supply that the state is receiving from the federal government, Pennsylvania has moved forward with eligibility for those in Phase 1B, while still vaccinating anyone in 1A who wants to be vaccinated and hasn't been, and while completing special initiatives such as vaccinations for teachers and school staff. Vaccination progress has warranted opening up availability to more populations and mirrors the vaccination goals of President Biden.
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To date, Pennsylvania has administered over 5.7 million doses of vaccine and fully vaccinated more than 2 million people. According to the CDC, as of Wednesday morning, April 7, Pennsylvania has administered first doses of vaccine to 35.4% of its eligible population, and the state ranks 11th among all 50 states for first doses administered by percentage of population.
Allegheny County has administered 456,952 vaccine doses with more than 240,000 people fully vaccinated. As of April 2, 76% of those in the county who are 65+ are at least partially vaccinated; 44% of those 50-64 are at least partially vaccinated. The Allegheny County Health Department has administered 87,386 vaccines to date.
The site in McKeesport focuses on equity, a top priority throughout the state's vaccine rollout.
"Equity means not only identifying which populations are at greatest risk from COVID-19, but proactively working to get vaccine into those communities, and breaking down barriers that make it harder for vulnerable Pennsylvanians to access the vaccine," Wolf said. "Local providers – like those right here in Allegheny County – know their communities best and can put in place targeted efforts to ensure vaccine equity. That's exactly what will happen at this site."
"Serving as a vaccination site for the community stands on my calling, and that of Bethlehem Baptist Church," said Reverend Earlene Coleman. "God spoke to me to pastor not just inside the building, but in the community as well as in the church. If life is rough in the community, how will they hear when they come inside?"
"We are happy to welcome Governor Wolf to the district to highlight this collaboration between the state, the Allegheny County Health Department, the City of McKeesport, and the Bethlehem Baptist Church to continue our effort to get everyone vaccinated and end this pandemic," said Sen. Brewster. "I commend the hard work and dedication to ensuring a fair and equitable vaccine distribution process."
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"I want to thank Governor Wolf for coming to McKeesport and bringing attention to the amazing work being done at Bethlehem Baptist Church by Pastor Earlene Coleman and her entire congregation," Rep. Austin Davis. "Given the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on people of color, ensuring equity in the vaccination process is crucial, and I'm grateful that the McKeesport community is contributing so much to our efforts to support the health and well-being of all Western Pennsylvania residents."
The Wolf Administration has worked with vaccine providers to make it easier for Pennsylvanians to get vaccine appointments including:
- Ensuring those without internet access can make vaccine appointments by phone,
- Working with the state's network of Area Agencies on Aging to help older adults find and make vaccine appointments. Many have now eliminated waiting lists.
- Working with transportation companies to make it easier for Pennsylvanians without reliable transportation to reach vaccine clinics.
- Encouraging providers who have taken innovative, proactive approaches to vaccinating our most vulnerable. For example:
- Some of the state's more than 200 federally qualified health centers in 44 counties have reached out to homebound seniors and homeless community members to provide vaccine.
- Various partnerships have worked to establish clinics that offer drive-thru vaccinations during convenient times of the day and week.
"Innovative and flexible approaches like the ones on display at this clinic will continue to be necessary to ensure equity during every phase of Pennsylvania's vaccine rollout," Wolf said. "This is a great example for counties and health departments throughout the commonwealth.
"Thank you to Dr. Bogen and the Allegheny County Health Department, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Rev. Coleman and the staff at Bethlehem Baptist, and every person who has had a hand in setting up this site."
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