The Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce is asking Kent County legislators to change state COVID-19 regulations to make it mandatory that only Delawareans get vaccine allotted to the First State so kids can get back in school and businesses open as quickly as possible.
Judy Diogo, president of that chamber, said that state chambers were told that out-of-state residents are able to get vaccinated in Delaware if they can show it is their “medical home,” because they have primary care physicians here or if they are a customer at a pharmacy such as a Walgreens.
“We find this extremely disturbing,” Diogo said in a Tuesday letter to legislators. “Delawareans and workers in Delaware should be the first to get vaccinated. After all Delawareans are vaccinated, then out of state residents can receive a vaccination.”
Anyone being vaccinated in Delaware should have a Delaware driver’s license or valid state identification card, she said in the letter.
Gov. John Carney’s spokesman said his office is aware of the letter and the concerns, but that the state and pharmacies are following guidelines that allow people from out of state to be vaccinated in those situations.
“People who commute to work in Delaware, including health care workers, and those who have a doctor or pharmacy in Delaware can be vaccinated here,” said Jon Starkey in a text. “That’s consistent with federal guidance and with our goal to reduce community spread of COVID-19 in Delaware, which will help us get back to normal.”
Out-of-state people cannot simply show up at a Delaware pharmacy and ask for a vaccine. They must be clients of that pharmacy, he said.
“There are limited instances where a resident of another state could be vaccinated in Delaware.” said Jen Brestel, spokeswoman for the Delaware Division of Public Health. “Out-of-state residents must show proof of employment or proof that they access their health care here (for instance your primary care doctor or pharmacy is here) in order to get vaccinated in Delaware.”
She and others said they could not speak for other states’ protocols.
“The CDC has updated its guidance to say that a state may decide that protecting the public health of its residents requires limiting vaccinations to state residents and not temporary travelers who do not reside in the state,” she said.
But the CDC also allows states to vaccinate those from other states if it “services a broader public health purpose,” such as reaching priority populations and promoting equity, Brestel said.
The issue is complicated.
Gov. John Carney and state public health officials have said for months that Pennsylvania residents who work at Delaware companies, such as hospitals, are being vaccinated when those companies vaccinate their workers. They said in press conferences over the last few months that they believe Delaware residents who work in Pennsylvania companies are being vaccinated at their work places, so it essentially evens out.
But Carney and those health officials also said this week that Walgreens will soon begin receiving shipments of vaccines directly to their stores. While that vaccine is in addition to what the state is getting, it’s also considered part of Delaware’s allotment, meant for Delaware residents.
At the moment, the state is only allowing healthcare workers and people older than 65 to be vaccinated. Vaccine “partners” are expected to follow Delaware’s guidelines.
The governor and health officials warned in Tuesday’s weekly COVID meeting that because they are now starting second doses for people vaccinated through state events, there will be less vaccine available for first doses. Tens of thousands of healthcare workers and people over 65 have not yet been vaccinated, which means that other groups, including teachers and those younger than 65 but with health care issues are going to need to wait later than expected.
Diogo said Wednesday that the letter was meant only for legislators and she would not have any further comment on it.
In the letter, she said the vaccination of people who don’t live in Delaware has come up several times in association meetings with Albert Shields and Damian DeStafano from Carney’s office.
This week, she wrote, “We learned that out-of-state residents are indeed able to get vaccinated in our state if they can show that this is their ‘medical home’ (ie: if they have a primary care physician here or if they are a customer at Walgreens and are contacted by Walgreens).”
But, she pointed out, the online registration form to sign up to be vaccinated, as well as information being shared by the state, clearly says vaccines are for Delawareans.
“There should be an order to this process and, if each state is given a certain number of vaccines based on their population, these out of state residents are clearly receiving vaccines that were clearly intended for our residents,” Diogo said. “This must stop immediately.”
Efforts were unsuccessful to reach her for comment Wednesday afternoon.
She urged legislators to make sure the criteria for vaccinations included the person being jabbed show a valid Delaware driver’s license or a valid Delaware identification card, which can be obtained through the Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles.
If someone showing up for a vaccine doesn’t have that, she said, “They need to be placed on a waiting list or told they will have to check back at a later date.”
And that mandate should be shared with all entities who are distributing vaccinations, including Walgreens.
“Delawareans and all our workers must be vaccinated first,” she said. “We must get our children back in schools. We must get our businesses open.
“We have all been told time and time again, the only way any of this is going to happen is through vaccinations, so please help us ensure that Delawareans are first.”