Did you get your COVID vaccine across state lines? Pennsylvania doesn't know about it

Daveen Rae Kurutz
Beaver County Times

State officials have no idea how many Pennsylvanians have crossed the border to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

The state Department of Health tracks how many of its own vaccines are administered to non-Pennsylvanians, but have no way of knowing how many of its own residents are going to Ohio, New York, New Jersey, West Virginia or other states to get their first shots.

"While medical care and vaccinations can be administered outside the Department of Health's vaccine jurisdiction, the Department of Health does not have data for those vaccinations, as it would have happened in a separate jurisdictions," said Maggi Barton, deputy press secretary for the department. 

UPMC Passavant pharmacist Carolyn Ubinger fills a needle with the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine during a clinic last week at Cumberland Woods Conference Center in McCandless Township.

That means the state data indicating how many Pennsylvanians have received a shot is higher than what is being reported and could be one reason some counties have such low vaccination rates. In Beaver County, where vaccine appointments in East Palestine, Salem, Wellsville and Libson are like manna from above, that could explain why just 16% of the population is at least partially vaccinated. 

That's substantially lower than state numbers, where a quarter of residents have received at least one shot, and a huge disparity from neighboring Allegheny and Butler counties. There, one-third of residents are at least partially vaccinated. In fact, Beaver County has the fifth-lowest percentage of residents to receive a COVID-19 shot from a Pennsylvania provider in the state, and is the lowest ranked of mid-sized counties. 

While Pennsylvania tallies the number of out-of-state residents who receive their vaccine here and makes that data public, other states aren't sharing that information. A total number of people from out of state who are vaccinated in New Jersey is available on its vaccine dashboard, but that same information isn't readily available on similar dashboards in Ohio, Maryland, New York or Delaware. 

Of the 10 counties with the lowest vaccination rates in the state, nine are a border county. That includes Monroe County, where 18% of residents are at least partially vaccinated. The county shares a border with New Jersey, where 102,403 out-of-state residents have been vaccinated. 

Bucks County, which also borders New Jersey, has had 24% of its total population at least partially vaccinated. County officials say that number is higher, and that likely could be the case if residents are migrating out of state for their doses. Erie County has a similar rate, with state data indicating that 24.4% of residents have started the vaccination process. But if residents are going to New York, that number could be higher as well. 

Unlike COVID-19 case data, vaccination data is tracked in a system that does not cross states. That makes knowing who is getting vaccinated elsewhere virtually impossible. Even for states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania, which share that information publicly, it's not tracked on a county-by-county or even state-by-state basis. 

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for the Beaver County Times. You can reach her quickly at dkurutz@timesonline.com. Give her a follow on Twitter @DK_NewsData