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Counties Have Booked Vaccine Schedules; Sullivan Approves Medical Reserve Corps

Moderna vaccine
Courtesy of Rockland County government

Questions and concerns about COVID-19 vaccine distribution continue to pour into local government offices in New York, Dutchess County among them. As soon as counties receive doses, the appointments to administer them are filled within hours. Meantime, Sullivan County lawmakers have approved the creation of a Medical Reserve Corps.

Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro fielded dozens of questions during his usual Wednesday Facebook COVID-19 briefing and told residents he shares their frustration with vaccine distribution, and that demand significantly outweighs supply. New York state received about 200,000 doses this week, 1,200 for Dutchess County.

“This week, Dutchess County’s two PODs, points of distribution, one at the JCPenney’s, former JCPenney’s in the Poughkeepsie Galleria, one at the Dover High School/Middle School, we are distributing 600 doses. That is it, 600 doses,” Molinaro says. “And all of those slots have been scheduled and are accounted for.”

He says the county has received more than 7,000 calls about vaccines in the past week. The state set up vaccination sites across the state; the closest ones to Dutchess are in Westchester County and Albany, if residents want to try to get appointments there.

Sullivan County Public Health Services announced on Wednesday it would administer COVID-19 vaccine to those over 65 years of age beginning Friday, and had scheduled clinics for next week. The county received 800 doses, 600 of which the state requires to be given to people 65 and older. The other 200 are reserved for essential workers. A little more than two hours after sending out notice that COVID-19 vaccines were available to those age 65 and over, all available appointments were taken.

Dr. Jeffrey Nicastro from Nuvance Health joined Molinaro for the briefing, and responded to concerns that the vaccine was rushed. He says mRNA, or messenger RNA, vaccines have been around for years.

“But keep in mind, every major drug manufacturer, every major research center around the world has spent a substantial amount of time working on this. So if you were to lay that out with just a few people working on it the way it normally is, it would turn into years. So we’re done many years’ worth of research and testing in one year,” Nicastro says.  “And so I want to reassure everyone out there this was not rushed to market without the same level of scrutiny and care attended to it that would normally be.”

And he said there is no data supporting concerns about infertility. As to how long the vaccine is effective…

“We don’t know,” says Nicastro. “If the vaccine is like other vaccines against similar type viruses, then we expect somewhere in the six month to a year efficacious time zone, but that’s speculation.”

And he addressed vaccine skepticism.

“The safety and efficacy for effectiveness of this vaccine have been well determined by the science,” Nicastro says.

Several residents wanted to know why they couldn’t get the vaccine at a pharmacy. Molinaro relayed that the state mandates that pharmacies administer doses to those in the 65 and older category only, at this point.

Meantime, the Sullivan County Legislature Thursday voted unanimously during an emergency meeting to set up a Medical Reserve Corps. of volunteers.

“So that means anybody who’s eligible, legal to do vaccinations would be eligible to be put into, under this category.”

They have to take a four-hour course, I believe.”

“After the four-hour course.”

Nurses in schools, doctors’ offices nurses, Cyrstal Run, you know, anybody…”

“EMS, hygienists, whoever can put a shot in somebody.”

“Yup, absolutely. This is something we need.”

Dutchess County already has a Medical Reserve Corps that has been helping with COVID-19 related undertakings. Sullivan County also unanimously voted to approve a memorandum of understanding between the county’s Public Health Services and various municipalities, organizations and businesses to create vaccine sites.

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