If you’re looking forward to getting out and enjoying nature this fall and you’re unvaccinated against COVID-19, state officials hope you’ll consider getting a jab before or after you walk, jog, hike or kayak through one of five state parks where free vaccination clinics are now scheduled.
One of the five clinics will be held at Nockamixon State Park in Bucks County, not far from the Saucon Valley and Southern Lehigh areas.
That clinic is scheduled to be held Saturday, Sept. 25 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The four other clinics are also scheduled to be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the following parks:
- Beltzville State Park, Carbon County, on Saturday, Sept. 11 (Phone: 610-377-0045)
- Shikellamy State Park, Union/Northumberland counties, on Saturday, Sept. 18 (Phone: 570-988-5557)
- Codorus State Park, York County, on Sunday, Sept. 19 (Phone: 717-637-2816)
- Keystone State Park, Westmoreland County, on Saturday, Sept. 25 (Phone: 724-668-2939)
The clinics are jointly sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the state’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).
“The best and fastest way for us to protect the people in our communities who can’t get vaccinated yet–including children under 12–and to end the pandemic is to get every eligible Pennsylvanian vaccinated,” said Gov. Tom Wolf in a news release about the vaccine clinics. “Partnering with DCNR to provide these unique vaccination opportunities is a great way for us to ensure that communities have convenient access to vaccines, and it’s one more way we can help ensure our park communities are as safe as possible.”
Wolf spoke about the clinics at a news conference at Codorus State Park in his native York County Friday, a day after President Joe Biden announced sweeping new vaccine mandates which will impact an estimated 100 million Americans, including private sector workers whose companies employ 100 or more people and health care workers.
As of Friday, 61.5 percent of all Pennsylvanians had received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, according to the state’s vaccine dashboard, which notes that vaccination percentages are calculated without data from Philadelphia and not counting out-of-state residents. The vaccination rate varies considerably from county to county and according to various demographics, including race. For example, as of Friday, 51.9 percent of Pennsylvanians who identify as White had received at least one dose of the vaccine, while just 40.8 percent of African-Americans and 29.1 percent of Asian-Americans/Pacific Islanders had received at least one dose.
Women in Pennsylvania are more likely to be vaccinated against COVID-19, with 64 percent of female state residents having received at least one dose of the vaccine. Among men, just 56.6 percent had received at least one dose. And while women (53 percent) are more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 than men (47 percent) are, more men (51 percent) in Pennsylvania die from complications of the disease than women (49 percent) do, according to data from Harvard’s GenderSci Lab. That gender gap is the same in most U.S. states, where men are more likely to develop severe complications and succumb to the coronavirus.
As of Friday, both Lehigh and Northampton counties had higher vaccination rates than the state average. Lehigh’s rate for all residents who have received at least one dose was 73 percent (68.9 percent for men and 76.7 percent for women) while Northampton’s rate for all residents who’ve received at least one dose of the vaccine was 68.5 percent (64.3 percent for men and 72 percent for women).
Pennsylvania’s most populous county–Philadelphia–is also its most vaccinated.
Philadelphia has its own COVID dashboard maintained by the city’s health department, which as of Friday reported that 82 percent of all residents had received at least one dose of the vaccine.
Conversely, Pennsylvania’s least vaccinated county is one of its smallest by population.
In Fulton County, in the south central part of the state, just 29 percent of all residents had received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine as of Sept. 10, per the state Department of Health’s vaccination dashboard.
The vaccine clinics in Pennsylvania state parks will hopefully help reverse that trend, according to state health experts.
Friday’s news release said the five parks were chosen to be vaccine clinic sites because they are home to “high use park visitation areas with good general vehicle access, adequate outdoor space and easy park pedestrian access.”
“The Department of Health is partnering with many organizations and entities to make it a priority to ensure that all Pennsylvanians have access to COVID-19 vaccines,” Acting Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson said in the news release. “If you have already been vaccinated, thank you for taking the step to protect yourself, your loved ones and all those around you from COVID-19. If you have not yet done so, take advantage of the free COVID-19 vaccination being offered at the five state parks across the commonwealth.”
The five clinics will provide either the Pfizer or the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. For those who receive their first shot of the Pfizer vaccine, second dose appointments will be scheduled at the State Health Center closest to where the recipient lives, the release said, noting that those who will need a second shot of the Pfizer vaccine can also get their second dose at a state park vaccine clinic.
Identification and insurance are preferred but not required at the clinics. Those seeking the vaccine should be prepared to answer health-related questions and must sign a consent form to receive it.
The Department of Health said it is working to ensure that the vaccine is provided to all residents in a way that is ethical, equitable and efficient by reminding them of the following:
- All Pennsylvanians ages 12 and older are eligible to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine. Use Vaccine Finder to find a COVID-19 vaccine provider near you.
- A commonwealth COVID-19 vaccination guide explains the current process for getting vaccinated. Pennsylvanians with questions about the vaccination process can call the Department of Health hotline at 1-877-724-3258.
- Vaccine dashboard data for Pennsylvania can be found on the Department of Health’s website. Data sets for the number of doses administered, according to demographics, are available.
- The Unite Against COVID Weekly Update is a newsletter that contains a round-up of news and answers to common vaccine questions. It is delivered directly to email inboxes every week.
- Answers to frequently asked questions can be found on the Department of Health’s website.
Those with additional questions about the vaccine clinics should contact the state park hosting the clinic they plan to attend for more information.
The phone number for the Nockamixon State Park office is 215-529-7300.
Pennsylvania is currently the tenth most vaccinated state in the U.S., according to CovidActNow.org, and the largest state by population in the Top 10.