Lack of communication from feds is slowing vaccine rollout, Pa. officials say

By KYW Newsradio

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The federal government is blaming states for the slow rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, saying “micromanaging” is “obstructing speed and accessibility.”

But Pennsylvania’s top health official, Dr. Rachel Levine, maintains a lack of communication and organization at the federal level is gumming up the works.

Alex Azar, the outgoing U.S. health and human services secretary, said states should open up registration for the vaccine to everyone 65 and older, along with others who have major health issues.

Health Secretary Levine, however, wants to see the bigger picture first.

“We want to see the whole plan as they’re rolling it out,” she said, “and then we will certainly study that and look at the impact upon Pennsylvania and we will follow federal guidance.”

Levine said an extra $100 million for Pennsylvania will help the state speed up the process, by, for example, funding large vaccination clinics.

But she said one of the major challenges at the state level has been a lack of communication from the federal program handling the distribution. She said the number of doses they’re told to prepare for isn’t always the number they receive, which makes it difficult to schedule shots.

“We want to know how much vaccine is going to go to specific hospitals,” she added, “and the more detail we have about that, the better we can prepare.”

Levine and Azar both agreed that the most important thing is getting the vaccine in people’s arms.

“If a hospital or other vaccine site doesn’t have someone from (Phase) 1a but they have someone from, for example, 1b and the vaccine would go to waste, please give the vaccine,” said Levine. “We don’t want any vaccine to go to waste, and we want vaccines to get into arms.”

President-elect Joe Biden is expected to talk more about his plan to speed up distribution on Thursday.