Bipartisan dissatisfaction with the Wolf administration’s rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in the Commonwealth led to the House’s passage of legislation that seeks to address these concerns.
House Bill 63 – which was approved in a bipartisan 135-66 vote, would require the state Department of Health to directly provide county health departments with increased supplies of vaccines, and provide county health departments with oversight of mass-vaccination sites that are popping up and currently administered by the state. The bill also would authorize more medical professionals to administer vaccines, and require the state to implement transparency, reporting and accountability measures regarding the distribution of vaccines statewide.
Unrelated to vaccines – but aimed to help businesses survive the pandemic – the House unanimously passed H.B. 325, which would allow licensed professionals to seek non-binding advisory opinions from their respective licensing boards pertaining to the interpretation of an act or regulation relating to the license. According to a story in Capitolwire, bill sponsor Rep. Keith Greiner, R-Lancaster, was quoted as saying, “The current uncertain economic environment in Pennsylvania caused by numerous COVID-19 mandates has caused a great burden for our small businesses or other professionals that need extra advice about waived or suspended regulations or guidance issued by the boards. Currently, boards are not allowed to answer inquiries which leads to indecision and possible violations that could otherwise have been avoided. My legislation removes this time-wasting burden for our workers and their small businesses during this difficult economic situation.”
Both bills await further consideration in the state Senate.
Also last week, DOH Acting Sec. Alison Beam signed an order for COVID-19 vaccine providers to work more closely with local organizations to help seniors and other high-risk people get appointments. The order stipulates that vaccine providers – health systems, pharmacies and medical clinics – must collaborate with Area Agencies on Aging and Medicaid managed care organizations to secure vaccine appointments for individuals in Phase 1A, which includes those 65 and older, people 16-64 with chronic medical conditions and health care workers.
According to a news release on the order, Acting Sec. Beam said its purpose is to give providers more opportunities to schedule appointments and to operate in accordance with the order that everyone in Phase 1A must be at least scheduled for a vaccine appointment by March 31. The department believes that managed care organizations are well-equipped to provide this assistance because they are accustomed to helping people who face barriers – including those who may qualify for housing in long-term care facilities but instead live at home; the state also noted that the Area Agencies on Aging (of which there are 52 statewide) can help identify and vaccinate homebound seniors.