On Tuesday, Gov. Tom Wolf announced the creation of a bipartisan joint task force whose goal is to “share” COVID-19 vaccine information and “communicate issues and solutions expediently on behalf of and to the broader General Assembly.”
“We have a good working relationship with our legislators, and we know they are the eyes, ears, and voices for Pennsylvanians,” Wolf said in a press release announcing the launch of the task force. “The feedback they receive from their local communities is extremely important, particularly as the commonwealth continues to improve upon this once-in-a-generation vaccine rollout. Working with leaders from each caucus in the General Assembly, we are creating a task force to ensure collaboration and strengthen communications about the state’s vaccine plan.”
Acting Sec. of Health Alison Beam and Director of the PA Emergency Management Agency Randy Padfield will co-chair the task force that also includes state Sens. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster) and Art Haywood (D-Philadelphia), plus state Reps. Bridget Kosierowski (D-Lackawanna) and Tim O’Neal (R-Washington).
According to the Morning Call, Pennsylvania ranks 41st among states in doses administered per 100,000 residents in data on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have criticized the handling of vaccines from the Wolf administration, although the announcement about this task-force was a welcome development for Democrats and Republicans alike.
“Vaccine distribution must be the top priority for all levels of state government at this time. We have reached a critical moment in our battle to defeat the virus, and every misstep at this time is a delay that could result in additional harms,” House Speaker Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) said in a press release. “I applaud Gov. Tom Wolf for responding to our request for improved collaboration and communication ensuring the voices of the people of our Commonwealth are always at the table in dealing with this evolving crisis.”
“I look forward to the hard work of serving on Governor Wolf’s Vaccine Task Force to get the COVID-19 vaccines into the arms of Pennsylvanians as quickly and safely as possible,” Haywood said.
“I’m honored to be selected for the task force,” O’Neal said. “As Pennsylvania continues to rank among the bottom third in the percentage of vaccines administered, we need to thoroughly examine where our deficits lie in order to do a better job getting shots in the arms of our Commonwealth’s residents.”
In addition to the creation of the bipartisan joint task force, the PA Department of Health also announced the launch of a new tool called “Your Turn” which will aim to “help Pennsylvanians understand where they fall in the vaccine prioritization effort and to be alerted when it is their turn to schedule an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine,” according to a press release.