Very low vaccination rate in Orleans called ‘criminal’ by County Leg leader

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 March 2021 at 9:27 am

County leaders press state to help Orleans get caught up with vaccines

Photo by Tom Rivers: This sign directs traffic at the mass vaccination clinic at Genesee Community College in Batavia on March 7. Of the 3,500 doses available over 5 days at GCC, Orleans County residents only were able to get 169 or 4.8 percent.

ALBION – Orleans County is lagging well behind the Finger Lakes Region and the state in getting people the Covid-19 vaccine.

County officials have tried the past three months to get more vaccine for residents, but the supply sent by the state has been far too low, said Lynne Johnson, the County Legislature chairwoman.

The state a month recognized the disparity in Orleans and approved a one-time special allotment of 1,170 doses. However, those doses didn’t come to Orleans. The state instead directed them to a mass vaccination clinic at Genesee Community College from March 5-9.

The clinic was supposed to be restricted to residents in the counties of Orleans, Genesee and Wyoming. But the state, a day before the clinic started, opened registration to everyone, without a residency restriction.

Orleans County residents only received 169 or 4.8 percent of those doses.

“It’s criminal that Orleans County is so far behind,” Johnson said on Tuesday evening in a conference call with local elected and appointed officials. “We were behind when PPP was distributed. We were behind with rapid tests when they first came out and now we are with vaccines.”

In Orleans County, 16.6 percent of the population of 40,612 has received at least one dose of the vaccine. Only the Bronx County has a lower rate, 16.2 percent, than Orleans out of 62 counties in the state.

The statewide vaccinate rate is at 22.9 percent with at least one dose. In the nine-county Finger Lakes Region, which includes Orleans, the rate is at 24.9 percent.

The vaccination rates in those nine counties includes: Orleans, 16.6 percent; Genesee, 22.1 percent; Wyoming, 19.5 percent; Monroe, 26.0 percent; Livingston, 21.8 percent; Wayne, 23.3 percent; Seneca, 21.3 percent; Yates, 25.9 percent; and Ontario, 27.8 percent.

Orleans County would need about 1,000 doses to catch up to Wyoming County, which has the second lowest rate among those nine counties. Orleans and Wyoming both have about 40,000 residents. In Orleans, 6,726 people have received at least one dose of the vaccine. In Wyoming, 7,807 have received at least one shot, according to the state’s Vaccine Tracker.

Johnson and Paul Pettit, the public health director in Genesee and Orleans counties, sent a letter on Tuesday to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, requesting a special allocation of vaccine to get Orleans caught up with the other counties.

“This is a matter of life and death for these residents,” Johnson said.

The Orleans officials also are asking for another mass vaccination clinic at GCC that would be restricted to Orleans, Genesee and Wyoming. Those three counties only got about 25 percent of the vaccines at the least clinic.

This week Orleans will receive 400 doses, which is down from the 600 last week in the weekly allotments from the state. The County Health Department will administer 300 of the doses, with Orleans Community Health (Medina Memorial Hospital) doing the other 100, Pettit said.

“Orleans County continues to lag,” Pettit told the local officials in the conference call. “Ultimately we’re not where we need to be compared to other counties. We are doing heavy advocacy for more vaccines.”