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Lack of guidance slowing process

State House of Representatives members have taken the first step toward using the Pennsylvania National Guard to help distribute COVID-19 vaccinations across the commonwealth.

While the action still needs approval by the state Senate and Gov. Tom Wolf, it’s apparent listening to Rick Allen, Warren General Hospital CEO, that the action is needed, particularly in counties that don’t have a health department.

Allen testified last week before a state House Health Committee, chaired by Rep. Kathy Rapp, R-Warren. Allen was also critical that there has not yet been clear guidance on the state’s vaccine plan, telling the committee that while sites have been selected in Warren County for mass inoculation it’s unclear how the vaccine would be acquired or who would administer it. The hospital has received precious little vaccine to give while the state has made more people eligible.

“Hospitals such as ours,” he said, “are apparently responsible and will have an extremely difficult time … to administer this number of vaccine. Help is required.”

In communities without a health department, Allen said there are questions about who is in charge and making decisions regarding mass or public inoculation, about information sharing, people signing up for vaccines in multiple counties and resources for health providers who are using staff time to provide a free service.

Wolf administration officials have signaled they support the House of Representatives’ legislation to use the National Guard to help with public vaccination efforts.

Legislators and Wolf should move quickly to set up the infrastructure to vaccinate people as expeditiously as possible — because the state’s lack of coordination with local health officials thus far is shockingly, stupendously lacking.

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