Lindsey Mauldin of the Pennsylvania Health Department has announced a new online tool to help Pennsylvanians keep track of when it’s their turn to schedule an appointment to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
The “Your Turn” tool on the agency’s website is available to Pennsylvanians aged 65 and younger who are eligible for the vaccine, Health Department official Lindsey Mauldin told journalists during an online news briefing on Tuesday. People without internet access can call the Health Department at 877-PA-HEALTH to obtain that same information, officials said.
Right now, the state is vaccinating frontline workers, people aged 65 and older, and people aged 16 and older who have underlying conditions in the first phase of its vaccine rollout.
According to the Health Department, the online tool will allow people eligible to receive the vaccine to find a provider near them. Those who aren’t eligible yet can enter contact details so they can be alerted when it’s their turn. The online tool, however, will not allow people to schedule an appointment to get the vaccine.
As of last week, the Health Department said it had vaccinated more than 1.3 people million statewide. Like other states, Pennsylvania has struggled to get adequate doses from the federal government. All told, it will take 4 million doses to vaccinate the 4 million people eligible in the first phase of the rollout, Mauldin said. So far, the state has received about 2.5 million doses.
“Our goal is to vaccinate everyone in the 1A category right now,” she said. Mauldin noted that people who have received their first dose do not need to worry about whether they will receive a second one. That’s already a part of the state’s calculus, she said.
While some counties have moved on their own, Mauldin said the state has no plans to launch a centralized registry to obtain the vaccine. That’s because supply is the main issue, and a centralized statewide registry would not address that problem, Mauldin said.
The tool’s creation came on the same day Gov. Tom Wolf announced he was creating a bipartisan vaccine task force with administration officials and four lawmakers from both parties and chambers.
The task force will “share vaccine information and communicate issues and solutions expediently on behalf of and to the broader General Assembly,” according to a press release. The legislative members — Rep. Tim O’Neal, R-Washington, Sen. Ryan Aument, R-Lancaster, Rep. Bridget Kosierowski, D-Lackawanna, and Sen. Art Haywood, D-Philadelphia — “will represent their caucus’s point-of-view and work to streamline conversations to focus and drive issues of importance,” the released added.
The task force comes after months of back and forth between Wolf and the GOP-controlled General Assembly over how big a role legislators should play in the pandemic response. Wolf vetoed 19 bills last year, many of which exerted legislative authority over his emergency powers. One even created a bipartisan pandemic response committee. But Wolf’s vetoes were upheld as Democratic lawmakers backed their governor.
The recent slow distribution of a vaccine, plagued by patient confusion, has sparked criticism from Republicans and Democrats. In response, the state House unanimously passed a bill last week to mandate the state National Guard help distribute the vaccine.
House Speaker Bryan Cuter, R-Lancaster, applauded Wolf’s move, and thanked him for collaborating. Other Republicans, such as Rep. Seth Grove, R-York, noted that Wolf’s olive branch only came after the General Assembly put a constitutional amendment limiting his authority on the May primary ballot.
Last Tuesday, the state announced a three-day total of 11,309 new cases of COVID-19, for a total of 876,913 cases since the start of the pandemic. Statewide, 2,881 people were hospitalized, with 565 people in hospital intensive care units, the Health Department said in a statement. The agency also announced 149 new deaths, for a total of 22,620 fatalities since the start of the pandemic.