Public Health director says getting vaccines administered ‘will be a prolonged event’

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 February 2021 at 12:40 pm

Orleans receives 500 vaccine doses this week, but needs many more to meet demand

Orleans County has 500 Covid-19 vaccine doses this week, with the doses split up among the Health Department, Orleans Community Health, and some local pharmacies and healthcare providers.

The county is projected to get a 16 percent increase next week in the vaccine, Public Health Director Paul Pettit said, but the amount is still far short to meet the expanded eligibility groups. (Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday said the 1B vaccine prioritization group eligibility could be expanded to restaurant workers, taxi drivers, and developmentally disabled facilities.)

“The supply is still nowhere near the amount we need for all of the eligible groups,” Pettit said on Tuesday evening in a conference call with local government officials.

The local vaccines are currently are being administered through pharmacies (people 65 and older); Orleans Community Health/Medina Memorial Hospital doing healthcare workers, people in the 1A group and some residents 65 and older; and the Health Department, which is targeting essential workers.

Gov. Cuomo on Tuesday said he received assurances from the federal government the supply to the state would be increased by 20 percent the next three weeks.

“That is a good sign with more vaccine starting to flow,” Pettit said.

The Health Department will have a vaccine clinic on Thursday at the Ridgeway Fire Hall from 1 to 4 p.m. Those slots are currently filled. Pettit sympathized with residents who keep checking for vaccine appointments but they tend to be full.

“It’s very challenging,” Pettit said. “Once they are posted, they’re immediately gone.”

The public health director said it could take several months to have work through all the eligible groups, which will continue to expand.

“This will be a prolonged event over the next three, four, five, six months,” Pettit said.

The county will need many volunteers for the vaccine clinics, which will likely be expanded to other days in the week once there is more vaccine.

Justin Niederhofer, deputy director of the Orleans County Emergency Management Agency, is coordinating the personnel for the clinics.

“We are looking for more volunteers,” he said. “We’re going to be in that for the long haul.”

Emergency Management can be reached at (585) 589-4414.

Cuomo in an update on Tuesday said about 1.7 million vaccine doses have been administered so far in the state – 1,414,241 first doses and 321,204 second doses. That state has about 19 million residents.

“We’re in a footrace to vaccinate the entire eligible population while continuing to keep the infection rate low,” Cuomo said. “We’re moving heaven and earth to administer as many doses as possible, but on a global level we are experiencing high demand and scarce amounts of the vaccine. We have much more distribution in place than we have supply, and as soon as we have more doses from the federal government we can get those shots in the arms of New Yorkers as quickly and fairly, while continuing to make sure the communities hardest hit have access to and trust in the vaccine.”