Putnam County officials are raising the same questions many New Yorkers are as the state contends with the COVID-19: pandemic “where is our vaccine?”
Since the pandemic began, Putnam has received a total of 2,647 - 1,740 first and 907 second - doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, all of which were administered within 48 hours of the state supplying the county with its allocation.
Supervising Public Health Nurse Kathleen Percacciolo made note that during the H1-N1 crisis, the county was vaccinating approximately 300 people an hour, proving Putnam has the capacity and ability to distribute more COVID-19 shots.
“Clearly we are capable of vaccinating more residents—we just need more vaccines to make that happen,” she added.
In response to a lack of vaccine doses, Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell called on the federal and state government to ramp up production and begin distributing them to counties.
“We understand that the entire process of scheduling a vaccine is frustrating for people. We are frustrated too,” she said. “We see the eligibility groups expand, but the supply doesn’t meet the demand still. That absolutely must change."
Odell noted that there has been confusion about how and where to make an appointment, noting that New York State requires individuals over 65 to get vaccinated at a state-run vaccination site, a pharmacy, or healthcare provider.
Local Health Departments are also largely not permitted to vaccinate that portion of the population unless they also meet other eligibility criteria such as being an essential worker.
“We are also asking the state to increase the supply available to our pharmacies and healthcare providers so that our residents age 65 and over can more easily access appointments,” Odell added. “They should not have to travel or search for a vaccine provider.”
According to the county Department of Health, Putnam was expecting an increased shipment of 500 first-dose vaccinations this week, though 24 hours after being advised of that by the state, the allocation was dropped back to 200.
A shipment scheduled to arrive this week was also re-routed to Kentucky due to the incoming inclement weather so it could be safely stored.
“We hear and share in the frustration and concerns of our residents, particularly those over age 65, who have not been able to secure vaccination appointments,” Health Commissioner Michael Nesheiwat said. "We will continue to demand more vaccines for Putnam, so our pharmacies can also be better supplied for our seniors.
Putnam County represents 0.51 percent of the state’s population, and it has received 0.55 percent of the downstate doses that have been distributed by the state. Nearly 11 percent of Putnam's population has received at least the first dose of the vaccine.
Nesheiwat said he has personally reached out to the Governor’s office and will continue to advocate on behalf of the county.
“We want school staff, essential workers, and those with underlying medical conditions to know that we are well-prepared to vaccinate a larger portion of our community,” he said. “We are hopeful that the vaccine supply will greatly increase so we can swiftly vaccinate all Putnam County residents who wish to be vaccinated.”
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