Wolf in McKeesport: Every resident wanting vaccine should receive dose by May

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Megan Guza, The Tribune-Review, Greensburg
·3 min read
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Apr. 7—Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday said he believes every Pennsylvanian who wants to receive the covid-19 vaccine will be able to get at least one dose by the middle of May.

"We're figuring that sometime toward the second week in May we should reach the point where we have reached with at least one dose ... everybody who wants a shot," Wolf said. "We could be right or we could be wrong."

As cases in the region and across the state rise after weeks of trending down, Wolf said there are no plans to replace restrictions that were just rolled back April 4.

"It's a race between the vaccine and the upsurge," he said. "I think the vaccine is winning."

Wolf's comments came as he met with Allegheny County and McKeesport leaders at the Bethlehem Baptist Church on Walnut Street to speak about vaccine equity and the continued acceleration of the state's vaccination rollout.

"There are some fluctuations in the supplies, especially the Johnson & Johnson, but I think the bigger issue is: What is the hesitancy rate?" he said. "That keeps changing. As people see their neighbors or their friends or their relatives get the shot, they all of a sudden go from being against the vaccine to 'I want to get it as soon as I can.' "

Wolf said vaccine equity means reaching out to those people specifically.

"It's not only identifying which populations are at the greatest risk from covid-19, but working affirmatively to make sure that we get vaccine in the arms of folks who are not only at risk, but might be more hesitant than others," he said. "We've got to break down barriers that make it harder for people to get the vaccine."

Part of that effort means turning Bethlehem Baptist Church into a community vaccination clinic starting on Monday. It will be the fourth Allegheny County-run clinic and second meant to ease access for vulnerable communities.

The Rev. Earlene Coleman said she is overjoyed to bring a vaccine clinic into her church.

"Serving as a vaccination site for the community stands on my calling, and that of Bethlehem Baptist Church," she said. "God spoke to me to pastor not just inside the building, but in the community as well as in the church."

The church clinic will be smaller than some of the other county-run locations, but it is centered on outreach, particularly toward those who might be vaccine-hesitant.

Coleman pleaded for people, particularly young people, to do their research and get the vaccine when they're eligible.

"Please listen: You need the vaccine," she said. "Listen, learn, Google — all of that stuff that you do — and find out that this vaccine was not created overnight."

It is the second county clinic to set up shop in a church, the first being Central Baptist Church in Pittsburgh's Hill District. There's a reason for that, said Dr. Debra Bogen, director of the Allegheny County Health Department.

"They're gathering places that provide comfort and shelter," Bogen said. "This pandemic has prevented us from gathering safely, and it's robbed us of our collective comfort. So it is appropriate that we utilize churches to vaccinate as many people as possible."

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, mguza@triblive.com or via Twitter .