COVID-19 Vaccine Providers to Partner with Area Agencies on Aging, MCOs to Help Seniors Secure Vaccine Appointments

Harrisburg, PA - Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam this week signed an amended order indicating that certain vaccine providers must work with local Area Agencies on Aging and Medical Assistance Managed Care Organizations to specifically schedule adults eligible in Phase 1A of the state’s vaccination plan.

The order also requires these providers to have the ability to schedule appointments for individuals into the future. Under this order, a vaccine provider that informs a Phase 1A individual that no appointments are available may be subject to enforcement. The order also requires providers to continue to ensure that appointments can be scheduled both by phone and using online scheduling systems.

To date, close to 1.6 million Pennsylvanians have been fully vaccinated and more than 3 million have at least one dose of vaccine. There are approximately 4 million eligible Pennsylvanians in Phase 1A. If about 80 percent of eligible individuals choose to be vaccinated, that means more than 3.2 million Pennsylvanians must have either received a vaccine or have been scheduled by the end of the month, for an appointment in the future.

“While it may seem like a daunting task, it is possible with the hard work and commitment of our trusted providers and the help of the state’s 52 Area Agencies on Aging, that have already been doing a tremendous job partnering with providers,” Acting Sec. Beam said. “We want to foster these relationships, leading by example of the partnerships already in place, and meet the goal of getting our Phase 1A eligible Pennsylvanians vaccinated in short order.”

Beam stressed that there is still limited COVID-19 vaccine supply compared to demand and so all possible efforts must be made so that the vaccine received in the commonwealth is most effectively administered.

In order to receive COVID-19 vaccine, all providers entered into an agreement with the federal government to vaccinate in accordance with federal guidance and guidance from the Department of Health. See CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Program Provider Agreement.

The federal government, through the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (“ACIP”) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended vaccine priorities, which have been adopted by the commonwealth. See Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 Interim Vaccination Plan.

Implementation of the vaccine priorities, increased administration of vaccine dosages received, and accessibility to scheduling resources, in part, will ensure the effective administration of the COVID-19 vaccine within the commonwealth and eventually slow the spread of COVID-19 until it is curtailed.

On February 12, 2021, Acting Sec. Beam ordered that providers take a number of steps to administer the vaccine in a timely manner and increase access to vaccinations. This includes administering 80 percent of the vaccine first-doses received within seven days of receipt of those doses; administering vaccine in accordance with the state’s phased vaccination rollout; requiring providers to have an operational online system to directly schedule appointments and informing the public about appointment availability; requiring providers to have a phone number for prompt access to live representatives or agents who directly schedule appointments and informing the public about appointment availability for the administration of any applicable doses of the vaccine received by the vaccine provider; and requiring providers to report data to the department within 24 hours of vaccination, including race and ethnicity data.

On March 15, Acting Sec. Beam amended that order so that providers actively receiving vaccine work to schedule appointments, within their best efforts, for each individual who requests an appointment by March 31. This would include all eligible individuals, include those outside the vaccine provider’s current patient network. These vaccinations do not need to occur by March 31, but providers must make their best effort to schedule them by that date.

Today’s amended order requires that when requested by the Department or its representative, those providers actively receiving vaccine must coordinate with the applicable local Area Agency on Aging (AAAs) and Medical Assistance Managed Care Organizations (MA MCOs) to schedule appointments for adults eligible under Phase 1A.

“We know not everyone has access to the Internet or the time or capability to navigate the website or repeatedly call to get an appointment,” Beam said. “The AAAs are a unique resource with the relationships and knowledge to assist seniors looking to be vaccinated. We believe that together the AAAs and vaccine providers can help these seniors get vaccinated, as shown by the many successful existing partnerships already under way and getting our most vulnerable connected with vaccine appointments.”

The Wolf Administration views this amendment as essential as we work to vaccinate those 65 and older and those with health conditions that makes them eligible to be vaccinated in Phase 1A as soon as possible. Completing these vaccinations is imperative in our efforts to provide vaccine equity and to complete Phase 1A as quickly as possible.

Find FAQs on the order here.