Bethlehem, PA (March 25,2021) – Scheduling a COVID-19 vaccine appointment can feel a bit like trying to obtain a coveted gift that is out of stock on every online retailer’s website.  Register here, sign-up there, wait for an email, stalk social media accounts. But what if you don’t have access to a computer or just aren’t as tech-savvy as some? 

For JoAnn Valletta, 84, of Easton, a call came from Pennsylvania State Senator Lisa Boscola’s office. They wanted to know if she had received her vaccine yet and if she needed any help. Within a few minutes, Valetta was added to a list and scheduled for her vaccine at St. Luke’s Anderson Campus. She received her first dose earlier this month.

“It was like my prayers were answered,” said Valletta. “They made it so easy and I am so grateful to have received my first shot. It was very organized.”

Recognizing a need for the elderly population to have assistance connecting with a vaccine appointment, Senator Boscola and her team put together a plan.

“We all know how deadly the COVID-19 virus has been to seniors. They are our most vulnerable community members,” Senator Boscola said.  “I also recognize that there have been challenges to getting the vaccine rolled out and wanted to do something personal to help get these individuals protected.”

In the past month, her staff in Harrisburg and Bethlehem have made over 3,000 calls to individuals 70 years and older.  Many reported already receiving the vaccine.  Individuals, like Valletta, who need an appointment are scheduled through St. Luke’s University Health Network.

“We essentially created a pathway for Senator Boscola’s team to share these names with us and we are prioritizing them at our 10 vaccine clinic locations,” stated Melissa Shafer, MS, St. Luke’s Associate Vice President of Government & Community Relations. “Pennsylvania is in a very broad eligibility category [Phase 1A], and with the limited number of vaccine doses available, it’s critical that we find ways like this to make sure our elderly patients are connected with the care they need.”

Senator Boscola agrees that current vaccine availability is limited and frustrating for many. “We need to focus on getting people most in danger of a bad outcome vaccinated as quickly as possible,” she says. “Our goal is to make sure our residents are informed, registered, scheduled and vaccinated.”

Her team worked through their list of individuals 80+, they have now moved on to individuals in lower age groups.

Similarly, St. Luke’s had been prioritizing vaccine appointments for individuals 65+; however, it recently announced that it will provide appointments for all individual in Phase 1A – based on availability of vaccine.

“We can’t wait to have enough vaccine supply to vaccinate everyone,” says Shafer. “Until then, we appreciate everyone’s patience as we work through community-wide vaccination together.”