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Local vaccine process needs shot in arm

For many, if not most, residents of the six-county Southern Alleghenies region, frustration and anger remain entrenched — and, in fact, continue growing — over the difficulty in setting up an appointment to receive the coronavirus vaccine.

Likening that scheduling situation to a “train wreck” is not far-fetched or an overreaction for the residents of the counties in question — Blair, Cambria, Somerset, Bedford, Huntingdon and Fulton.

Anyone can point his or her finger in the direction of the person, entity or unit of government believed responsible for the unconscionable mess that persists in regard to vaccine availability and actually delivering it into the arms of people in eligible categories.

However, it is reasonable to suggest that there are others who haven’t recognized the opportunity at their fingertips to try to make a positive difference on the vaccine front, for now and for the weeks and months ahead.

Judging from the gravity of the COVID-19 situation, that probably is as unconscionable as the scheduling morass itself.

Specifically in this region, there has not been enough recognition of the fact that large venues such as the Blair County Convention Center, Johnstown’s arena and National Guard and Reservists’ armories need to be mobilized as vaccination centers for thousands of people over a short period of time — whenever, of course, sufficient quantities of the vaccine arrive here.

Meanwhile, this region already should be compiling a list of active and retired nurses, pharmacists and other medical practitioners with the training and availability to administer the vaccine in a large venue once it arrives, as well as for supervising arrangements leading up to the vaccine distribution..

When the weather improves, sports stadiums and other facilities could be added to the list of available vaccination sites.

A Feb. 7 Wall Street Journal story reported that “New York City and state officials opened a large-scale COVID-19 vaccination center in Yankee Stadium … that aims to get more shots in the arms of residents in some of the city’s hardest-hit neighborhoods.”

Pharmacies in this region that have accepted the task of vaccine distribution merit commendation for having taken on this responsibility amid their other important work.

However, the pharmacies’ sizes aren’t generally conducive to accommodating the number of people who haven’t been vaccinated but who desire to roll up their sleeves for what they hope will be protection from the virus.

In regard to large-size vaccination venues accommodating many people, there ought to be a federal provision in effect for reimbursement of costs associated with whatever subsequent deep cleaning might be necessary.

Regardless, the important thing now is for the Southern Alleghenies region to be ready when big volumes of the COVID-19 vaccine become available. And, part of that being ready must include better, streamlined arrangements for getting people on a vaccination list — without necessitating people to remain glued to their computers or cellphones virtually around the clock, waiting for a vaccine appointment to open up.

U.S. Rep. John Joyce, R-13th, was correct in his Feb. 21 weekly update to constituents when he wrote that “Pennsylvanians deserve honest answers and a clear plan that will improve the (vaccine) distributions process and get shots into arms.”

Unfortunately, that clear plan already is weeks, if not months, overdue, despite vaccine supplies remaining inadequate for the mission ahead.

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