Montgomery County Commissioners call for more transparency about vaccine distribution from state government

Montgomery County commissioners, elected officials from other counties in Bucks, Chester, and Delaware counties, and suburban state legislatures met for an hour on Sunday, March 7th with Pennsylvania Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam and other Wolf Administration officials regarding the state’s allocation of COVID-19 vaccine to the four counties in Pennsylvania surrounding Philadelphia.

According to the press release the meeting was “long sought” and only happened after the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on February 27th that the four suburban counties had received far lower state allocations of vaccine than their substantial populations’ merit. 

According to county officials, all four counties consistently have received from the Pennsylvania Department of Health far smaller amounts of vaccine than requested, while less-populated counties elsewhere in the state have received disproportionately large amounts of Pfizer and Moderna vaccine.

Due to receiving smaller-than-expected allocations of the vaccine, there have been long waiting lists and the cancellation of second-dose appointments that had been scheduled for weeks.

In a joint statement, the county officials referred to the meeting as “disappointing and frustrating” and that there is a “lack of transparency” on how the doses are distributed. The full statement is below:

The meeting with the PA Department of Health was both disappointing and frustrating. 

There remains a lack of transparency on the total doses that have come to our counties from every source. Therefore, we have no way to assess how the data presented to us today was calculated, and how those calculations have been used to determine the number of doses that have been allocated to our four counties. Additionally, we were not given any indication of the plan to make up acknowledged shortfalls to certain counties going forward. 
Acting Secretary Beam did confirm that no county will move to vaccinate people in Phase 1B before sufficient vaccine has been made available to all counties to fully vaccinate residents in Phase 1A who wish to be vaccinated – with the exception of teachers and educational support personnel who are directly receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine from the State.

Together we call on Acting Secretary Beam to swiftly do the following:

1. Create a publicly available chart showing the amount of vaccine from all sources, including Federal partnerships, that has been delivered to each county each month; a description of the “County Index” that PA Department of Health is currently using to allocate doses to each county; and how the Index has been applied to each County since it came into use in January.

2. Explain how and when counties that are lagging in vaccine delivery will receive additional vaccine.

3. Explain how vaccine providers will be monitored going forward to ensure that no vaccine provider moves on to vaccinate 1B individuals (beyond the teachers and educational support personnel noted above) until all counties in the Commonwealth have received sufficient vaccine to vaccinate their 1A population.

Beam was appointed by Governor Wolf to replace former Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine, who was appointed to a position within the Biden administration. Beam is not a medical doctor and most recently served as deputy chief of staff to the governor.

When he appointed Beam, Governor Wolf stated, “Her foremost and immediate focus will be on the strategic distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, making sure Pennsylvania receives as many doses as possible from the federal government, and that the Pennsylvania Department of Health coordinates with hospitals, health centers, county and local governments, and pharmacy partners to make this vaccine as widely available as possible to Pennsylvanians everywhere.”