It should be easier and faster to get COVID-19 vaccine, but the hard truth is that a lot of our most vulnerable residents are having to wait too long to be vaccinated, Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell said.
Putnam County has almost 18,000 residents aged 65 or older. An estimated 2,600 residents work in law enforcement, firefighting or other protective service occupations. Another 6,200 or so residents work in education and libraries, which the Census lumps together. Then there are 3,900 healthcare practitioners, technologists and technicians. And don’t forget nursing home and group home staff and residents. All of those residents and more are eligible for vaccination under state rules.
“More than 30,700 Putnam residents are eligible under state rules to receive a COVID-19 vaccine,” County Executive Odell said. “But this week, the state has allocated just 200 vaccines to our health department to inoculate essential workers and 200 vaccines to a pharmacy to administer to senior citizens. If you can’t get an appointment for a vaccine, that’s why. We are working with the state to try and get more vaccine.”
Right now, there are only three options for vaccination in the county: The Putnam County Department of Health, which is running clinics in Carmel and Philipstown but only for eligible essential workers; Putnam Hospital Center, which is only authorized to vaccinate healthcare professionals; and Drug World in Cold Spring, which is authorized for senior citizen vaccinations only. We are waiting for data from the state to tell us how many doses of vaccine have been dispensed countywide since the start of the program and how many vaccinations have been administered.
The Putnam County Health Department has run three vaccine PODs (points of dispensing), two in Carmel and one in Philipstown, and has vaccinated nearly 1,000 people in the five weeks since the vaccines were made available.
Because the health department has been tasked by the state with vaccinating only a very narrow group of essential workers, it does not schedule appointments online. Instead, the appointments are distributed equally among organizations whose members the department is required to vaccinate. Still, it is worth checking the health department’s website regularly in case it is given the flexibility to vaccinate a broader scope of residents in the future. https://www.putnamcountyny.com/health/
“We are just trying to be fair and work within the guidelines the state has given us,” said Kathy Percacciolo, PCDOH Supervising Public Health Nurse. “We are very experienced at organizing and operating mass vaccination PODs, and we hope the state will allow us to vaccinate more of our residents when supplies increase.”
Drug World, a pharmacy at 55 Chestnut Street in Cold Spring, was selected by the state to run COVID-19 vaccine clinics for those aged 65 and older. The pharmacy vaccinated 140 seniors last week at St. Mary’s in-the-Highlands church, also on Chestnut Street in Cold Spring, and is expected to hold vaccination clinics regularly as supply allows. To check for an appointment, visit https://www.drugworld.com/
The same is shortage of supply is at work for those trying to get an appointment at one of the big regional vaccine centers run by the state, like the Westchester County Center in White Plains. Appointments at those sites are booked through the end of April, the websites say. To check their availability, visit https://am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/
“We recognize there is concern about the wait for vaccines,” said Michael Nesheiwat, MD, Commissioner of Health. “One thing that is important to realize is this was not completely unexpected. We need to look at vaccine implementation as the long-term project it is—more of a long-distance race and not an all-out sprint. It is an enormous undertaking and not physically possible to roll out large numbers of vaccines in an instant.”
Despite the frustration at the current scarcity of vaccine supply, the good news is that more vaccines are expected to be approved in the near future. There will soon be enough vaccine for everyone that wants to get vaccinated.
And, the public health practices we’ve been following continue to work: wearing masks, social distancing and frequent hand washing.