READING, Pa. - Berks County officials announced Thursday that they are working in partnership with several agencies to establish a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at an undisclosed location in Muhlenberg Township.
Co-County Wellness Services, the Berks County Area Agency on Aging, the library system, and BARTA will collaborate with the county on the multifaceted mass vaccination approach.
"This is a tremendous partnership, and we will be ramping up the planning over the next few weeks," said Berks County Commissioner Kevin S. Barnhardt. "The site will be on a major route in Muhlenberg Township, and we are coordinating with BARTA for free fixed-ride door-to-door services."
Barnhardt said Co-County Wellness plans to facilitate a call center to make appointments, specifically for people who do not have access to technology.
"We are just delighted and pleased to be a part of this partnership with the county and all the other participating agencies," said Barbara Waller, chief operating officer of Co-County Wellness.
The proposed call center addresses an ongoing issue the commissioners have been hearing about when it comes to the vaccine getting to the older and underserved communities in the county.
"Many people are frustrated because they're not internet users and they're not comfortable, or in some cases they have a landline," Waller explained. "They don't even have cell phones."
Barnhardt urged anyone interested in future information about the clinic to sign up for the newsletter on Berks County's COVID-19 website.
"That will provide you with a message when a window is open to schedule an appointment," Barnhardt said.
He added that the clinic will most likely be open through August.
Other mass vaccination sites around the region have been established at empty stores, such as abandoned Kmarts and Bon-Tons. Wherever the Berks site ends up, Mike Malinowski, the president of Muhlenberg Township's board of commissioners, said he's ready.
"Obviously, we are extremely happy there is a facility in our community that can help our neighbors get protected from this horrible virus," Malinowski said in a statement. "We will do all we can to welcome them to the Township."
A date has not yet been set for the clinic to open.
"As you know, as they said, everything is dependent on the flow of vaccine," said Waller.
During the Berks County commissioners' meeting last week, Commissioner Christian Y. Leinbach expressed his dissatisfaction with the vaccine distribution process in Pennsylvania, adding that not enough was being done to reach large numbers of the state's residents.
"I believe it's fair to say county leadership, as a whole, is incredibly dissatisfied with the process," Brian Gottschall, the county's director of emergency services, told WFMZ's Jim Vasil on Wednesday.
Gottschall said Tower Health's Reading Hospital and Penn State Health's St. Joseph Medical Center have clinics with a much greater capacity than they're currently using, but that's only because the health systems are not being provided with an adequate supply of vaccine.