"So many things have happened during this pandemic that it’s put our counties and our residents at a disadvantage without having our own department of health."By Jon Delano

BEAVER, Pa. (KDKA) – Beaver County officials said on Tuesday that they’ve been hurt in the distribution of vaccines because they do not have a county health department.

They don’t have a health department, they say, because state law does not allow it.

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County officials around the region are looking for alternatives.

Of the 67 counties in Pennsylvania, only six — like Allegheny — have their own county health departments.

The rest are served directly by the state’s health department.

County commissioners around the Pittsburgh region tell KDKA political editor Jon Delano that they are looking for alternatives.

“I do believe that if we had that department of health here in Beaver County, we would be receiving more vaccines whether it be from the state or federal government,” says Daniel Camp, chair of the Beaver County Board of Commissioners.

At a state of the county meeting hosted by the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday morning, Camp and fellow Commissioner Jack Manning said their residents have been hurt by not having their own health department.

“I’m not sure Beaver County has gotten its fair share, especially given with how we were an outlier, the long-term care facilities, the aging demographics,” noted Manning.

It’s a view shared in other counties.

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Washington County Commissioner Diana Irey Vaughan says COVID-19 has brought home the importance of having local health officials.

“So many things have happened during this pandemic that it’s put our counties and our residents at a disadvantage without having our own department of health,” says Irey Vaughan, chair of the Washington County Board of Commissioners.

“With a small number of residents here, it’s hard to get your voice heard for your fair share of vaccines,” adds Mike Belding, chair of the Greene County Board of Commissioners.

Belding says Beaver, Greene and Washington counties are among a number exploring a regional health department.

“We’ve had preliminary discussions about this,” says Belding.

“We have to look at creating our own health department because we have failed our citizens in this region without having a health department,” notes Irey Vaughan.

“We need a serious conversation on regionalizing a health department,” adds Camp.

KDKA reached out to the state health department, but no response yet.

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Area commissioners say it will take time to create a regional health office, but the failure to distribute vaccines evenly makes it more urgent than ever.