December 21, 2020
Contact: Shayna Varner, 717-221-1800
Cell: 304-280-0457

Shamberg: “Every day without a vaccine is one more day in which we risk the lives of Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable residents.”

Recent trends find nearly 250 residents in Pennsylvania’s long-term care facilities are dying every week, increasing urgency for vaccine prioritization

HARRISBURG, PA – (December 21, 2020) – Zach Shamberg, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association (PHCA), today issued the following statement as Pennsylvania’s long-term care residents and their providers of care continue to wait for prioritization and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine:

Even before the first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Pennsylvania, we knew the risks of failing to prioritize our most vulnerable residents in long-term care facilities, including nursing homes, personal care homes and assisted living communities. That’s why the Pennsylvania Health Care Association (PHCA) has fought for the critical resources providers need, such as testing, personal protective equipment and staffing assistance.
Recent independent research from Harvard Medical School, Brown University’s School of Public Health and the University of Chicago found that the number of COVID cases in the surrounding community had a direct correlation to the number of cases in long-term care facilities. In other words, spread of the virus in our communities equals a great likelihood of spread in our nursing homes.
After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted to prioritize long-term care residents and staff for the first distributions of a COVID-19 vaccine, long-term care providers in Pennsylvania had reason to hope. Additionally, in just four days, a PHCA petition calling on the Wolf Administration to prioritize long-term care in its state distribution plan garnered more than 1,500 signatures and comments. 

However, it is now clear that long-term care has once again been left behind in the state’s response.

Last week, states throughout the country, in partnership with CVS, Walgreens and other pharmacies, began to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine to nursing home staff and residents. Today, this process will begin in an additional 12 states. However, in Pennsylvania, not a single long-term care provider will receive its first vaccine until next Monday, December 28.

Given recent data, nearly 250 residents in Pennsylvania’s long-term care facilities, on average, are dying each week. Every day without a vaccine is one more day in which we risk the lives of our most vulnerable residents.
Pennsylvania must do better. Our public health officials must do better. And Pennsylvania’s senior citizens in long-term care deserve better.

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