Six long months of mass COVID vaccine clinics will be coming to an end on June 22 for the Putnam County Department of Health. Vaccination rates in Putnam continue to be about 4 percentage points above the state average, with 59 percent of Putnam residents of all ages having received at least one dose. This percentage puts New York in the top third of all states in the nation. Meanwhile COVID case numbers continue to decline; fewer tests are being performed; less contact tracing is being conducted; and fewer contacts need to quarantine.
“All of this paints a positive, encouraging picture,” said Health Commissioner Michael J. Nesheiwat, MD, whose staff at the Putnam County Department of Health has worked tirelessly, and often without a break, for the past fifteen months. “We have entered a new phase of this pandemic. It has not ended, but to a large degree, it has been tamed. In Putnam County, New York, we have done a very solid job—herd immunity is in reach—and we have our community to thank for this.” Dr. Nesheiwat explains, “To achieve herd immunity we would need at least 70% of the population to be immune in order to keep the rates of infection down.”
Kathleen Percacciolo, supervising public health nurse at the health department, spoke to Medical Reserve Corps volunteers and health department staff, saying, “None of this would have been possible without all of us working together. We have been a great team. Together we have worked through this pandemic and helped shape history.” From start to finish, Ms. Percacciolo will have directed 74 POD (point-of-dispensing) clinics, and overseen the administration of more than 20,000 vaccines in total, including those administered by health department nurses and MRC volunteers for home-bound residents as well.
“Vaccine is now readily available in the community,” Ms. Percacciolo continued. “We will be administering the single dose J & J vaccine for anyone 18 and older at our remaining clinics through June 22, and walk-ins are welcome. When vaccines for those under 12 become a reality, or if booster shots become available, we will re-evaluate the needs of our communities and the potential for resuming our clinics.” Remaining clinic dates for individuals 18 and older to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are June 10 and 15 in Philipstown, and June 22 in Brewster. Information on registration and times is available at https://www.putnamcountyny.com/covid-19-vaccine-information/
Now in the U.S., anyone over the age of 12 can get a vaccine. VaccineFinder at https://www.vaccines.gov/search/ can be used to locate a nearby site based on which vaccine is desired, a zip code and search radius.
Vaccination will continue and the higher vaccination numbers provide more protection for everyone. Last month Pfizer-BioNTech filed an application to the FDA for full approval of their vaccine which has been used under Emergency Use Administration or EUA since late last year. Moderna filed a similar “rolling review” application last week which allows the company to submit portions of the application as they are completed, rather than waiting and filing it all at once. Full approval, which could come as early as this fall, would mean vaccination could be mandated in schools, colleges and offices. However, it may not be in time for the start of the fall semester.
“With the potential for full FDA approval as well as an expected FDA authorization for younger children to receive the vaccine, it is a good time to talk to a healthcare provider you trust—your own primary or your child’s pediatrician,” said Dr. Nesheiwat. “We hope that by having these conversations ahead of future approvals, more people will make the informed choice to vaccinate both themselves and their children.”
The mission of the Putnam County Department of Health, nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB), is to improve and protect the health of the Putnam County community, composed of nearly 100,000 residents. Core services include community health assessment, disease surveillance and control, emergency preparedness, environmental health protection, family health promotion and health education. For more information, please visit our County website at www.putnamcountyny.com, or visit our social media sites on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram