Recognizing the hurdles eligible seniors have faced, a number of local Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) across Pennsylvania have taken strides in the COVID-19 vaccination effort that the Lancaster County Office of Aging has yet to implement.
Lon Wible, executive director of the Lancaster County Office of Aging, told LNP | LancasterOnline that beginning Monday the agency will work to identify homebound seniors 65 and older and those without internet access to ensure they are not left behind.
“We don’t want anyone to fall through the cracks,” Wible said.
For at least the past two weeks, though, Wible’s agency has fielded up to 50 calls a day from frustrated seniors describing futile attempts to get vaccinated in Lancaster County. He estimates about a third of these seniors do not have internet access.
Earlier this week, the Wolf Administration highlighted some of the proactive work local AAAs elsewhere have done to improve access, which included scheduling assistance, transportation and offering senior centers to serve as vaccine clinics.
“While each AAA has different capacity and resources, the department will be working to support all AAAs in their efforts to further develop their efforts to assist older adults,” said Jack Eilber, state Department of Aging spokesman.
Rebecca May-Cole, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of Area Agencies on Aging, said a number of counties — Montgomery, Mercer, Clearfield and Beaver, among them — already have lists and partnerships with vaccination clinics. “I have a hard time believing they’re starting from scratch,” May-Cole said of the Lancaster County Office of Aging, noting local AAAs have been meeting weekly with the Pennsylvania Department of Aging since March.
The amount of vaccine coming into Lancaster County and issues surrounding accessibility have led many seniors to travel two counties away to be vaccinated in Lehigh County.
The way Donna King sees it, the problem in Lancaster County is a leadership issue. “I think we all have been let down,” said King, 76, of Lancaster.
King will travel today to St. Luke’s hospital in Bethlehem to get her second dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health opened the COVID-19 vaccines up to those 65 and older on Jan. 19.
Lancaster County has roughly 95,500 seniors 65 years and older, the age cohort most susceptible to the ravages of COVID-19 and currently eligible to receive the vaccine under in Phase 1A of the state's vaccination plan.