The Times Herald (Norristown, PA)

Pennsylvan­ia falling short on vaccines

People want more informatio­n about the rollout of coronaviru­s vaccines in Pennsylvan­ia. And they want it now. We’re hearing it from our readers.

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They are complainin­g that they don’t know when they will be able to get the vaccine or even how to sign up for it. Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine told us the informatio­n was being put on a website. But many, especially the elderly and people with disabiliti­es, do not have access to the internet. And too many still have questions about the safety and effectiven­ess of the vaccines.

That’s not to cast blame on any one person or agency. It’s certainly not to cast blame on Levine, who clearly needs more resources to tackle the problem. She says the $100 million expected to come soon from the federal government will help provide resources, but it still won’t be enough to meet the need. And there’s no clear date when the money will come and exactly how it will be spent.

And to be fair, the vaccine rollout has been marred from the beginning with misinforma­tion in social media, confused messages coming for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as political posturing in the White House that has caused millions to question the safety and efficacy of rushed vaccines.

To her credit, Levine acknowledg­es improvemen­t is needed at the state level. “We want to do more, and we want to do better,” she told PennLive’s Editorial Board. But as she refines the rollout plans and responds to ever-changing guidance from the CDC, she might make communicat­ing to the people a priority.

Communicat­ion needs to happen not only through press conference­s and postings on websites. There must be an urgent grassroots effort to reach people more directly through the organizati­ons, nonprofits and community centers they know and trust.

This is especially true in minority communitie­s. Gloria Merrick, a member of our board and director of the Latino Hispanic American Community Center, says her organizati­on has had little interactio­n with the Department of Health even though it serves hundreds of Latino families in our region.

An education campaign to provide concrete informatio­n about the vaccines and dispel myths now circulatin­g through the Latino community is essential. The same could be said of the African American community.

Too many Black people in our region say they will not take the vaccine because of their distrust of President Donald Trump, who rushed to take credit for its “warp speed” developmen­t.

And too many Black people distrust the medical community, which they believe suffers from systemic and historic racism.

So far, neither the Department of Health nor any other state agency has done enough to overcome the misinforma­tion and distrust that is so rampant in minority communitie­s.

It compels us to ask, is anyone advocating for these communitie­s in the hierarchy of the Wolf administra­tion? Who’s at the table representi­ng these communitie­s when decisions are being made about the coronaviru­s or any other public health issues? Do they even have a voice in the administra­tion’s power structure?

Levine did provide a dose of good news in announcing a plan to open mass vaccinatio­n clinics. But again, details have been slow to emerge.

Some time ago Pennsylvan­ians should have had answers to the basic question of when most of us will be able to get the vaccine and where. At least tell us where to sign up to be on the list to be saved from COVID-19.

We have no doubt Gov. Tom Wolf and the Department of Health are working night and day to try to answer our questions. And we fully accept chaos in the federal government has made their jobs even harder.

But the fact remains, more people in other states are being protected more quickly from COVID-19. And we have a right to know why.

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