Community health leaders brainstorm vaccination plans

Josalyn McMillan, Staff Writer

Community health leaders gathered on Feb. 19 in a Zoom meeting to brainstorm plans to take on the task of vaccinating Cambria and Somerset county residents.

This group, known as the Cambria/Somerset Covid-19 Task Force, includes healthcare providers, county representatives, community members, housing authority representatives, and community-based organizations.

These individuals are hoping to coordinate community education about Covid-19 and its vaccines, increase vaccination efforts in Cambria and Somerset counties, make appointment sign up easier, and get vaccines to those who want them.

The Task Force is currently exploring the potential to do mobile vaccination units, however there are challenges due to the refrigeration needs of the vaccines.

Fayette county has created a central database for Covid vaccine providers, and Cambria and Somerset representatives are looking to create a similar platform for its residents.

Vaccine providers are discussing ways to make it easier to find and schedule vaccination appointments.

According to the 1889 Jefferson Center for Population Health, “The task force will continue to convene weekly via Zoom on Tuesday mornings at 8:30 a.m. and is actively seeking new members from the public sector, private sector, and the community.”

To join the task force, please email [email protected] or call at (814) 535-5156.

Among these Task Force members is UPJ Associate Professor of Biology and Undergraduate Research Coordinator Jill Henning.

Dr. Henning partners with the non-profit group In This Together Cambria (ITTC). Its mission is to “[Advocate] for action by local leaders and fellow community members to help stop the spread of Covid-19 in Cambria County,” according to Henning.

“In This Together Cambria utilizes a two-pronged approach to pandemic education and outreach—advocacy and storytelling.

“The Advocacy Committee champions strong local and regional leadership and evidence-based, community-led solutions to reduce the substantial community spread of Covid-19 in Cambria County.

“The Storytelling Committee collects and shares Covid impact stories from residents of Cambria County to encourage mitigation efforts, to promote public health, and to create space for empathy, action, and healing,” Henning explained.

Henning recently received a Year of Engagement grant through the University. Part of that grant was partnering with ITTC to create a forum called Covid Questions and to broaden the reach of that forum along with providing Covid-19 resources to the group’s website.

ITTC’s website,, features a list of community resources, reliable Covid-19 information, and a guide to local testing locations and vaccination providers.

Since there has been consistent difficulty with supply and coordination in the state, PA is 41st in the nation for vaccine rollout.

Henning predicts that if students are not in the 1A category of vaccine priority, then they will not likely get the vaccine until this summer.

One way that UPJ is involved in vaccine distribution is through its nursing students that are volunteering with Mainline Pharmacy to administer vaccines at clinics.

Henning also reiterates that the best way for students to help in vaccination efforts is to follow mask mandates and keep to their pod.