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Montgomery County Commissioners' Chairwoman Dr. Valerie Arkoosh at county Emergency Operations Center

NORRISTOWN — While the number of coronavirus cases continued to trend upward this week, Montgomery County officials revealed another disturbing trend — residents harassing volunteers at some vaccination clinics.

“The issue is hostility toward our vaccine clinic staff. It is never acceptable to yell, berate or otherwise harass our clinic staff,” county Commissioners’ Chairwoman Dr. Valerie Arkoosh said during a Wednesday news briefing. “While many of our staff are county employees, some are contracted workers and many are volunteers. But no matter how they get to our clinics, it is never acceptable to yell, berate or harass them.

“There’s been a handful of incidents but one incident is one too many. It’s just unacceptable that people are taking frustrations out on our staff,” added Arkoosh. “I can’t speak precisely to what has caused frustration but I know people are very, very anxious to get vaccinated. I understand that people are frustrated, I’m just asking that they not take that frustration out on our staff at our vaccination sites.”

Arkoosh pleaded with county residents to remain patient during the vaccination process.

“We know the last few months have taken a toll on everyone waiting to receive the vaccine. I also recognize that there have been technical problems that have led to appointment glitches at some of our sites. But I ask that our community continue to have patience and be respectful of our clinic staff who are doing everything they can to keep this process safe and smooth for everyone,” Arkoosh said.

“We are working as fast as we can to get more people vaccinated. We understand the deep desire shared by all of us to return to some kind of normalcy. We want to provide shots in arms as quickly, efficiently and as safely as we can and we are accelerating the pace of vaccinations despite this week’s setback,” Arkoosh added.

On Tuesday, county health officials had to pause the distribution of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, under federal and state directives, as they await the outcome of a review by the federal Centers for Disease Control of six reported incidents of rare blood clots that occurred in individuals in the U.S. within two weeks of receiving the J&J vaccine.

All those who had appointments to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at a county vaccination clinic through Friday were contacted and given the opportunity to receive a Pfizer vaccine or to reschedule an appointment.

“Please remember we are all in this together and we need everyone’s cooperation, respect and understanding as we continue our vaccine rollout,” Arkoosh said.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported on Thursday that 139,941 county residents have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, receiving either the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine or both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. Another 191,508 residents have received a first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, according to state data.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses to achieve optimum protection.

Meanwhile, county health officials reported 191 daily new positive COVID-19 cases on Thursday, bringing the county’s total number of positive cases to 54,399 since March 7, 2020, when the first two cases of the virus were identified in the county.

There were no new COVID-19 deaths reported on Thursday, leaving the county’s death toll at 1,275 since the pandemic began a year ago.

Appointments are required to get a vaccine. Anyone 16 and older can pre-register to receive the vaccine through the county Office of Public Health. The pre-registration link can be found at www.montcopa.org/COVID-19 under the green vaccination information button.

Residents who don’t have internet access can call the county’s COVID-19 hotline at 833-875-3967 to connect with a volunteer who can assist them in pre-registering for a vaccine.

The county previously opened five weekday vaccination clinics at the following locations: Norristown High School; the Montgomery County Community College campus in Whitpain; the Parkside Shopping Center, in the former Petco location, in Willow Grove; Trinity Lutheran Church, 1000 W. Main St., in Lansdale; and Bethel Community Church, 575 N. Keim St., in Pottstown.

Hours vary and no walk-up registration is accepted.

Bethel Community Church in Pottstown also will hold vaccine clinics each Saturday.

A sixth vaccination clinic will be available on Saturday, April 17 and every Saturday in May at Bethlehem Baptist Church, 712 Penllyn Pike in Spring House.

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