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Pennsylvania 46th out of 50 states for vaccinating senior citizens

Local agencies blame bad communication from the state.

LACKAWANNA COUNTY, Pa. — Seniors are struggling to get their shots in Pennsylvania.

Centers for Disease Control data shows that PA has fully vaccinated only 34% of people over the age of 65, one of the worst states in the country. 

Credit: WNEP

You can feel the frustration at the West Side Senior Center on Jackson Street in Scranton.

Phyllis Farkaly has been trying to get a vaccine for two months and finally scored an appointment this week.

"A lot of people I know seem to just, I don't know if they have luck or what, they seem to get in there at the right time and get the shot. And me, who has been trying for months to get it, can't get it. So, for me, it's nerve-racking, it's depressing, it's like, why can't I get the shot?" she said.

Mary Rose Shulger is one of the lucky ones who agrees that others shouldn't have to work so hard to get a vaccine. 

"Pennsylvania has a high, high volume of senior people, and we do pay a lot of taxes, and like I said, I feel sorry for the people who can't get it. And in some states, they get it just like that," Shulger said.

"I think the state needs to listen to the folks who are in the trenches and doing this every day," said Jason Kavulich, director of Lackawanna County's Area Agency on Aging.

Kavulich and his agency have taken the helm in the effort of vaccinating older adults in the county. 

Kavulich told Newswatch 16 that when Governor Wolf moved individuals over 65 into the 1A group, local agencies weren't prepared with a vaccination plan.

"Big communication gaps, we usually don't find out about decisions until after they've happened. Our input is not always solicited or taken into account. We've been left to clean up and deal with decisions that were made and thrust on us without any kind of preparation," he said.

RELATED: How to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment in Pennsylvania

Kavulich said while the state lags, Lackawanna County is turning a corner. 

Its 211 hotline for helping seniors get vaccine appointments will move off of a waiting list for the first time this week. Kavulich expects that the county will meet the state's goal of having everyone in the 1A population at least scheduled for a shot by April 1.

But, he said that goal is unrealistic for many counties. 

"We're even to the point now that we're closing our office except for emergencies to work on getting people vaccine appointments. It's really a tough thing to live with knowing that we're lagging so far behind," Kavulich added.

State officials point out that PA may be turning a corner as a whole. The state ranks much better when it comes to seniors who are partially vaccinated; that number is more than half. 

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