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County Leaders Await More COVID-19 Vaccine To Satisfy Demand

Moderna vaccine
Courtesy of Rockland County government
Moderna vaccine

With the administering of the COVID-19 vaccine to eligible people under way, counties in New York have been running out of doses quickly. The process has been bumpy, and some county leaders hope it will be ironed out soon as they field numerous calls and remind residents that the program is run by the state.

Democratic Westchester County Executive George Latimer delivered a vaccine update Monday.

Westchester County government received, last week, last Tuesday, 500 doses to be administered, and those 500 doses were given to the county. They were administered through our White Plains Department of Health clinic on Court Street, not far from where I’m standing in the county office building,” says Latimer. “And through Friday, we were able to properly deliver all of those 500 units to those who are eligible in the 1A category.”

1A includes healthcare workers. He says some doses were administered to county workers, such as Department of Health nurses.

“We were given an additional allocations of 330 doses Friday midday, to the afternoon, reallocated from another source,” Latimer says. “Through the course of Saturday, we kept the clinic open on Saturday, administered another 105 doses.”

And he expected the rest of the doses to be administered by the end of Tuesday. Republican Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus:

“The problem is we need more doses. I don’t think that the counties, like Orange County, we got our first doses last week, last Tuesday, 800. Within 24 hours they were all exhausted,” Neuhaus says. “So we need more doses. It’s a common problem. I’ve had a conversation with counties from Suffolk County all the way on up north, including the Hudson Valley.”

Sullivan County will begin weekly vaccination clinics January 20 and twice-weekly beginning mid-February. The county has been partnering with Garnet Health and coordinating planning efforts countywide. Sullivan County Public Health Services is also planning a large Point-Of-Dispensing (POD) clinic when additional vaccine becomes more widely available. On Tuesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo, following CDC guidance, says New Yorkers 65 and older are now eligible to be vaccinated.

“That is a population of 7 million New Yorkers. 1A was 2.1 [million]. 1B was 3.2 [million].  You just added 1.8 [million]. The immunocompromised number we don't even have yet because it depends on how you define it, but you have a population that's eligible now of about 7 million,” says Cuomo. “We receive 300,000 dosages per week. That has not changed. The federal government didn't give us an additional allocation.”

Neuhaus says a lot of people want to sign up to receive the vaccine.

“And it’s almost like buying concert tickets right now,” Neuhaus says. “When they put a link out, people spread it out, and as soon as they’re out, that allotment is exhausted, the link is dead. That’s just the way it works.”

Vaccines are available through appointment only and you have to fill out the necessary paperwork through a state site. Dutchess County reports that its three PODs, or points of dispensing, have no available appointments due the limited number of doses made available to the county from the state. Rockland County received 1,000 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine January 5, and had administered every dose by the end of Friday. The Rockland Health Department received an additional 200 doses of the vaccine Tuesday morning. No additional appointments are available, though.

Earlier this year, Latimer says Westchester turned the County Center over to the state for use as a field hospital. And starting Wednesday, it is slated for use as a vaccine dispensing location.

“If the County Center can be used for vaccinations, if those vaccinations can help us stop the hemorrhaging of deaths that we’ve had, that I look at today’s number and it’s 200 more than another day number, then I think it’s a good use,” says Latimer.

Latimer says the numbers of active cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to climb in Westchester. Orange County’s Neuhaus says he will go to the back of line for his vaccine, even though he is eligible now.

“I’m a man in my 40s. I think that, I see the older people dying more than anybody, so I’m going to wait, even though I’m probably eligible as a first responder — I’ve been offered a number of times — until those elderly people get vaccinated,” Neuhaus says. “So I think that’s what people should keep in mind and maybe help them. If you’re young and you’re eligible, maybe you want to help your elderly neighbor or your elderly relative.”

On Monday, the Putnam County Department of Health ran its second Phase 1A vaccination POD, at Carmel Friendship Center for healthcare workers and those who live or work in nursing homes or group homes only. The health department has administered 600 doses of the Moderna vaccine, all it has received so far. The department was expecting another 300 doses this week.

In Ulster County, the Kate Walton Field House at Kingston High School is the primary vaccine distribution site and The Ellenville Regional Hospital Center is a secondary distribution site. The Kingston site began operations Monday, and the Ellenville site will begin operations on January 14. Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan and first-term state Senator Michelle Hinchey will tour the Kingston site Wednesday afternoon.

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