At 75 — an age cohort more likely to die from COVID-19 — Richard Gunning embarked on a futile pursuit in Lancaster County to get vaccinated that lead to a one-hour trek two counties away.
After calling St. Luke’s University Hospital in Bethlehem on Jan. 15, Gunning and his wife two days later were rolling up their sleeves to receive the first of two COVID-19 vaccines.
Gunning has told at least half a dozen friends.
“Everyone that I know has been up there and has received a vaccine and are going back for their second,” the Manheim resident said, noting initially he thought being an out-of-county resident would preclude him from getting inoculated in Lehigh County.
Gunning added, “I’m astounded that nothing is going on in Lancaster County. Nobody knows anything.”
His wife, Barbara, called a couple of her high school friends, including Donna King.
King, 76, was vaccinated in Bethlehem on Monday.
“Every place that you tried, you’d strike out,” said King, of Lancaster. “It was frustrating that, yes, it’s available here, but there’s no way to get it.”
Everyone with whom LNP | LancasterOnline spoke described the process in Lancaster County as exasperating. They also called the operation at St. Luke’s “well organized.”
Sam Kennedy, a St. Luke’s spokesman, said the health system is seeing a wide swath of patients.
“We are vaccinating some people from all over, though we are working toward prioritizing local residents,” Kennedy said in an email to LNP | LancasterOnline.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health’s vaccine dashboard shows where vaccine has been administered and the number of individuals being inoculated.
It is unknown how many Lancaster County residents, for example, are traveling out of the county to receive the vaccine.
As of Tuesday, 17,367 individuals in Lancaster County had received at least one of two COVID-19 doses. In Lehigh County, that number was 23,229.
Lehigh County, according to 2019 federal estimates, has roughly 176,400 fewer residents than Lancaster County.
Two of Lancaster County’s largest health care providers — Penn Medicine Lancaster General Hospital and UPMC Lititz — are vaccinating only health care workers.
WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital expanded its first phase eligibility, recently opening a sign-up portal online.
“We need to get it to have peace of mind,” Barbara Gunning said.
LNP | LancasterOnline Reporter Hurubie Meko contributed to this report.