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Long-Term Care Facilities Aren't Getting Prioritized For Vaccination, Says Industry Leader

Gerry Broome
Zach Shamberg with the Pennsylvania Health Care Association says the state is falling behind in vaccinating residents and employees of long-term care facilities.

On today's program: The president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association says long-term care facilities aren’t getting the COVID-19 vaccine priority they need; a World War II veteran who helped break German U-boat codes celebrates her 100th birthday; and amid an impending budget shortfall, the Port Authority of Allegheny County is accepting public comment about its long-term transit plans.

One industry leader says long-term care facilities ‘should be a lot further along’ in COVID-19 vaccine distribution

(0:00 — 6:12) 

The state Department of Health claims 100% of skilled nursing facilities enrolled in the Federal Pharmacy Partnership program, or FPP, have received their first vaccine dose. Seventy percent of facilities have received their second doses and, 70% of personal care homes and assisted living residences enrolled in the program have received their first doses. 

But there is a call to get more vaccines to long-term care facilities more quickly.

“Up until now, less than 20% of all available COVID-19 vaccine [in Pennsylvania] have been sent to the Federal Pharmacy Partnership program,” says Zach Shamberg, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association. PHCA is an industry group representing some 500 long-term care facilities. 

“I look to a state like Florida that gave 50% of its initial allocation to Federal Pharmacy partners to ensure that long-term care could be vaccinated. Other states are at 45 0r 40%,” says Shamberg. He says Pennsylvania’s allocation, at 18%, does not cut it. 

Shamberg says some facilities have opted out of FPP, believing they can vaccinate residents and staff quicker by looking to local partners instead.

“We’ve been told that for the vaccine, long-term care is a priority, but it doesn’t seem like it,” says Shamberg. “We should be a lot further along with the vaccine distribution than we are today.”

Shamberg says nearly 55% of staff at member facilities for PHCA and about 80% of residents have received the vaccine so far, but PHCA doesn’t support making vaccination mandatory. 

“Rather than mandate, we’ve really asked our members, and they've done a terrific job of stepping up, of leading and providing that education to residents and staff and family members as well so that they know exactly what it will mean to be vaccinated,” says Shamberg.

World War II code breaker and Pittsburgh native turns 100 years old
(6:14 — 13:16)

Today, veterans from the Pittsburgh region and family will celebrate the 100th birthday of Julia Parsons, who was a Navy WAVE (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), during World War II. 

“We had no idea, none of us, what we were going to be doing,” says Parsons.

She enlisted after graduating from Carnegie Tech, the predecessor to Carnegie Mellon University. 

“We ended up sitting in the chapel there waiting to be assigned, and they came in and asked if anyone knew German and I raised my hand.” Parsons had taken German classes in high school.

“They sent me right down to the German section of the decoding annex there, and that’s how I became a codebreaker! I had never even heard of the enigma machine at that point.”

Many veterans are hesitant to share their war experiences, and Parsons is one of them; she kept the specifics of her experience secret for more than 50 years. She told her family she had a “desk job.”

Parsons helped decode the location of German submarines, U-boats, that were then targeted by Allied forces.

“I felt some of the, what they call survivors guilt, or something,” says Parsons.  “It’s one thing to enable someone to sink a submarine, but it’s another thing to think about the lives that you’re taking with it, having helped to destroy German submarines. It still bothers me sometimes when I think of those lives lost.”

Port Authority is planning for future transit, despite uncertain funding
(13:20 — 18:00)

The Port Authority of Allegheny County is on a quest to build a transit system that is equitable, sustainable and improves people’s lives

90.5 WESA’s Margaret J. Krauss reports a new round of public meetings on its long-range plan come at a time of uncertainty and fiscal constraint.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
Marylee is the editor/producer of The Confluence, the daily public affairs show on WESA. She got her start in journalism at The Daily Reveille and KLSU while attending Louisiana State University. She took her passion for audio journalism to UC Berkeley's graduate program and worked in public radio at WPR in Madison, WI, and WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.
Laura Tsutsui is a producer for The Confluence, WESA's morning news show. Previously, she reported on the San Joaquin Valley with the NPR affiliate station in her hometown of Fresno, California. She can be reached at ltsutsui@wesa.fm.
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Isabelle is a student at George Washington University studying Political Communication. She loves all things Pittsburgh sports and serves as a sports anchor for GW-TV. In her free time, she enjoys museum hopping and walking her dog, Stevie.
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