Gov. Wolf and Dept. of Aging Secretary share community-based solutions to help the 65+ community get a COVID-19 vaccine

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Governor Wolf and Secretary Robert Torres of the Department of Aging held a press conference Thursday to share how community-based solutions are helping Pennsylvanians 65+ access the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We need to foster these community-based solutions,” Gov. Wolf said. “Every community in Pennsylvania has unique needs and challenges, but we can learn a lot from listening to one another and lifting up creative solutions that are making a difference in the state’s vaccination efforts.”

The Pa. Department of Health recently launched Your Turn, a program designed to help people know when they are eligible to get the vaccine.

Pennsylvania has seen difficulties with the vaccine rollout, and currently is ranked 43rd in the country in the percentage of vaccines distributed (63.09%.)

“Every state is different and has different needs, just like every community in Pennsylvania has different needs,” Wolf said. “Pennsylvania has one of the largest populations of older adults in the nation, but we’ve received an allotment of just over 150,000 vaccine doses a week so far from the federal government, which provides all the vaccine the state receives. Still, we are making progress with more than 1.4 million Pennsylvanians receiving one or both of their vaccine doses to date.”

Throughout the commonwealth, adults age 65 and older are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine now in Phase 1A. Older adults in long-term care are getting the vaccine through the facility where they live through the Federal Pharmacy Partnership, but there are thousands of other Pennsylvanians 65 and older who live on their own or in senior housing or other settings that don’t qualify them for the long-term care vaccine program.

Older adults who have questions about vaccine availability in their community and how to make an appointment may also call the Department of Health hotline at 1-877-724-3258 to get help.

Efforts to get more eligible people vaccinated are taking place on the local level, too. Sec. of Aging Robert Torres joined the governor to outline what local Area Agencies on Aging and his department are doing to provide unique, working solutions to Pennsylvanians 65-plus.

“Since the first case of COVID-19 was announced, Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) have helped to ensure that the needs of older adults are being met,” Sec. Torres said. “Now, AAAs and their community partners are responding to the call to help older adults navigate the COVID-19 vaccination process.”

For older adults who don’t have access to a computer, PA Link to Aging and Disability Resources, which connects older adults and adults with disabilities to services and technical supports, is also stepping up to take calls and offer assistance.

When people call the PA Link for help with getting a vaccine, PA Link counselors will assess the caller’s situation, offer guidance and transfer to a scheduling team. For those callers with transportation needs, the Link counselors will also be able to contact PA Link partners and AAAs at the local level to assist with coordinating local transportation. The PA Link number is 1-800-753-8827.

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