Local leaders from Delaware County were joined by a bipartisan group of federal and state officials at a Thursday press conference, united behind a single cause: getting more COVID vaccines to Delaware County.
“We will not be ignored or patted on the head,” said Delaware County Council Chair Brian Zidek. “It took too long to get here but we are standing shoulder to shoulder to get our people protected.”
With nearly 250,000 residents in the 1A category for vaccination – or those designated most vulnerable to the disease – Delaware County reported on March 5 that only 41,234 people had been vaccinated. Two weeks ago, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported a huge disparity in the amount of vaccine being allocated by the state to Delaware Valley suburbs, while far less populous counties in other parts of the state were getting more vaccine.
There are rumblings at the state level of counties moving onto the 1B category – which includes many who work with the public every day – since so many in the 1A category are already vaccinated in much of the state.
“The hard ask here is, don’t move onto 1B if all of us have not vaccinated our most vulnerable,” said Delaware County Councilwoman Elaine Paul Schaefer. “If you have more than enough vaccines to take care of your 1A residents, hooray for you. Send vaccine over here. But don’t move ahead until the whole state has taken care of its most vulnerable.”
State Sen. Anthony Williams (D-District 8), said less of the vaccine is finding its way into low-income and minority communities, and Delaware County needs to be a priority before any moves are made to the next category statewide.
“We are asking this in a respectful manner,” said Williams, whose district extends from Philadelphia into Upper Darby and Drexel Hill and then down to Folcroft. “But more to the point, we are saying: do not move along without moving us along… Today it is a request, tomorrow it will be a demand.”
The state senator said that with over two decades of public service, this was the first occasion he has seen local, state, and federal leaders, from both parties, join in a single cause.
“It points to where we are,” he said. “This is no longer a problem, it is a crisis.”
There may be some help on the way for Delaware County. U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-5th District) announced at the press conference that ChesPenn Health Centers in Upper Darby and Chester are on schedule to receive thousands of doses of COVID-19 vaccines from the federal government.
“With all the metrics involved in determining where vaccines get distributed first, Delaware County should be on top of that list,” said Scanlon. “We have been working to get federal vaccine sites in southeastern Pennsylvania, and we are pleased to announce there will be thousands of doses sent to ChesPenn Health Centers, we just got word today.”
Congresswoman Scanlon’s spokesperson, Roddy Flynn, said details are still being worked out for this infusion of federal vaccine shipments to the area. “It was just announced to us and to ChesPenn a few hours ago, but we’re talking thousands [of doses of vaccine].”
“It will take a couple of weeks to get this up and running,” said Flynn, noting the federal Health Resources and Services Administration and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention will be involved in a partnership with ChesPenn, which is a federally qualified health center targeting under-served communities.
“But the fact that the partnership is now created is a great victory.”
Delaware County Council Chair Brian Zidek said leaders in the community – regardless of party – have banded together on getting Delaware County its share of the vaccines.
“We will not be ignored or patted on the head,” said Zidek. “It took too long to get here, but we are standing shoulder to shoulder to get our people protected.”