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Vaccinate NEPA: Carbon County feeling cut out on vaccine rollout

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LEHIGHTON, CARBON COUNTY (WBRE-WYOU-TV) — As eligibility increases, millions across the nation and the Keystone State are getting appointments for COVID-19 vaccines.

“They’re set up. They can do 5,000 vaccines a week. I just hope that we get a positive outcome out of this,” Carbon County Commissioner Wayne Nothstein said.

The vaccine rollout in Pennsylvania has had its fair share of hurdles. We are starting to see more help as it comes from the top. However, this is not the case everywhere. In Carbon County, the closest thing to a mass vaccination clinic was shuttered as the state focuses on a more regional approach.

“It was very successful to support the people of the greater Carbon County area,” John Nespoli, president of St. Luke’s University Health Network Carbon campuses said.

Tents, like the ones at St. Luke’s Lehighton Hospital, have been used to help with distribution of the vaccine rollout in Carbon County, but they’ve been relatively dormant for more than two weeks.

“We have a lot of elderly people. A lot of people don’t have transportation means and, to me, it’s just not a good thing to expect the folks of Carbon County to travel far for the vaccine,” Nespoli said.

Commissioner Nothstein and the rest of the board penned a letter to the Department of Health and the governor last week urging them to reconsider their distribution plan and reallocate doses to the St. Luke’s clinic that could be administering thousands of shots a week.

“People keep asking us all the time, ‘Why can’t we get the vaccine here?’ We’re doing what we can. We’re trying to work with the state, the Department of Health and the governor’s office. Let’s make things happen here on a local level,” Nothstein said.

With restrictions being lifted and life gradually returning to normal, the county is hoping to be part of the vaccine solution so more residents can have the full benefits of feeling safer in public again.

“If we don’t keep sending letters and reaching out, how are we ever going to get anything if we sit back and do nothing?”

Carbon County commissioners say they are actively engaged in talks with the department of health and other state agencies, with hopes of tweaking that vaccine rollout plan to accommodate the upcoming demand later this month.

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