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Lawmakers: Vaccine task force ‘highly productive’

The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered plenty of party-based antagonism in state government, but a bipartisan Vaccine Task Force is working together amicably, officials said.

“Coming into the task force, I had no clue,” said Rep. Tim O’Neal, R-Washington. “I didn’t know if it was legitimate or window dressing.”

But it’s turned out to be a “wonderful experience,” with members speaking freely and coming up with solutions, minus the “partisan bickering,” O’Neal said.

Co-chairing the Task Force are the heads of the Department of Health and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, while the other members comprise one Democrat and one Republican each from the Senate and House.

“I was not sure what to expect,” said Sen. Ryan Aument, R-Lancaster.

There are disagreements, but they’re in context of “civil political discourse,” he said.

“We’re able to disagree well,” he said.

And “there’s no higher priority” than getting people back to school and to work and restoring the economy, Aument said.

The group has been highly “productive” dealing with “one of the biggest challenges the commonwealth has ever faced,” said Rep. Bridget Kosierowski, D-Lackawanna.

Each lawmaker brings concerns from his or her caucus to the group, so the group can “work them out,” Kosierowski said.

It’s been “wonderful,” said Sen. Art Haywood, D-Philadelphia.

“Very, very collegial,” said Gov. Tom Wolf.

Given the apparent success of bipartisanship with the vaccine task force, would it have been better in hindsight for the administration to have solicited Republican help with the shutdowns and other mitigations?

“I don’t know,” Wolf said. The collegiality of the task force is “helped” by a bipartisan recognition of “the need to get the vaccine out as soon as possible, so we can get back to life as normal,” Wolf said.

“We’re all in the same place,” he said. “It’s not a Republican or Democratic thing.”

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 814-949-7038.

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