CARMEL, N.Y. - Putnam County officials continue to urge New York State to increase the county’s supply of vaccine. The Putnam County Department of Health reports that they dispense all of the state-supplied doses within 48 hours of receiving them. As of Feb. 16, the department has administered 1,740 first doses and 907 second doses. 

“During H1-N1 we were able to vaccinate 300 people in an hour,” saif Supervising Public Health Nurse Kathleen Percacciolo. “Clearly we are capable of vaccinating more residents—we just need more vaccines to make that happen.”

County Executive MaryEllen Odell she understands that the entire process of scheduling a vaccine is frustrating for people. “We are frustrated, too,” she said.

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County officials said that they continue to advocate for more vaccine to be available for residents.

“We see the eligibility groups expand, but the supply doesn’t meet the demand still,” Odell said. “That absolutely must change.” 

For many people, there is confusion about how and where to access an appointment. To complicate matters, some first-dose shipments sent to local health departments have been specifically designated by New York State for targeted populations, such as individuals affiliated with the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). Additionally, New York State requires individuals over 65 to get vaccinated at a state-run vaccination site or a pharmacy or healthcare provider. Local health departments are generally not permitted to vaccinate this portion of the population unless they also meet other eligibility criteria such as essential worker status.

Odell said there are other providers in the county as well.

“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,” she said. “They should not have to travel or search for a vaccine provider.”

Health Commissioner Dr. Michael J. Nesheiwat said county officials share in the frustration and concerns of residents, particularly those over age 65, who have not been able to secure vaccination appointments.

“We will continue to demand more vaccines for Putnam, so our pharmacies can also be better supplied for our seniors,” he said. “ I have personally reached out to the governor’s office and will continue to advocate on behalf of the entire 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. We are hopeful that the vaccine supply will greatly increase so we can swiftly vaccinate all Putnam County residents who wish to be vaccinated.” 

There are several reasons for the lack in vaccine availability. Last week, on top of the supply and demand imbalance, the region was faced with the challenges of safely delivering temperature-controlled doses of vaccine during back-to-back winter storms. County and state officials have contingency plans in place for when weather or other circumstances may result in a delay in shipment. Because of these expected but unpredictable circumstances, the county Department of Health only schedules appointments when they have vaccines “in the refrigerator.”

“Rather than having to cancel appointments, it is more efficient to schedule as we receive.,” Percacciolo  said. “If we begin to receive more doses, we will revise plans as needed.” 

The Health Department has confirmed that there will be more providers in Putnam to facilitate vaccination of residents with with more than one illness. Healthcare providers looking to become an approved COVID-19 vaccine provider can visit coronavirus.health.ny.gov/covid-19-vaccine-information-providers.

While Putnam County residents have received their first dose of vaccine at a slightly higher rate than the New York State average, Odell continues to push the state to address gaps in communication and information. She led a regional effort with other county executives to bring together state lawmakers and call for improved communication from the state along with the needed increase in vaccine supply.

Article courtesy of Putnam County Health Department