The Putnam County Department of Health will soon be allowed to administer COVID-19 vaccinations to senior citizens who have no comorbidities, Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell announced Friday, following a meeting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top advisors.
In addition, County Executive Odell announced, the state has promised to significantly increase the county’s vaccine allotment, which means more residents can be vaccinated quickly.
“This is what we have been working toward, the opportunity to dispense as many vaccines as we are allocated, as quickly and as efficiently as possible,” County Executive Odell said. “The sooner we get these vaccines in our residents’ arms, the sooner we get this pandemic behind us, and the sooner we will see our children back in the classroom and our Main Street economy 100% reopen.”
For months, County Executive Odell has been calling for the state to loosen its policy and permit local health departments to vaccinate residents 65 years of age and older as a way to end the confusion that has surrounded the vaccine rollout. Until now, senior citizens without comorbidities could only be inoculated at one of the state’s mass vaccination sites or a scattering of private pharmacies. Local health departments were assigned to vaccinate only specific categories of essential workers, group home residents, those with disabilities and people of all ages with comorbidities.
“Our Putnam County health department is highly trained, professional and experienced in running vaccine PODs,” County Executive Odell said. “We have a very efficient process that has been established by our Incident Command Structure.”
On Friday afternoon, Larry Schwartz, who is leading the state’s vaccination efforts, and Dr. Howard Zucker, the state health commissioner, held a conference call with county executives across the state to discuss the policy change and to share more good news: the state will significantly increase the amount of COVID-19 vaccine it distributes to local health departments next week.
County executives were told to submit requests for the amount of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine they could store at sub-zero temperatures and dispense within seven days to senior citizens without comorbidities. Putnam County requested 3,000 vaccine doses. Dutchess County also requested 3,000 doses, while Rockland County requested 5,000 doses.
A county’s allotment will depend upon its population. Putnam County does not yet know if it will get all that it asked for, or when any of it might be delivered.
“We have the capability to set up a POD to administer the vaccine within 48 hours of receiving it,” said Dr. Michael J. Nesheiwat, MD, Putnam County’s commissioner of health. “When we actually get the vaccine shipment and know exactly how much we have, we will set up a link on the health department website for seniors to sign up for appointments.”
In addition to the professionals from the county health department, we have a vast pool of experienced volunteers who are ready, willing and able to help vaccinate our most vulnerable residents. As soon as our allotment of vaccine increases, we can activate this COVID-19 vaccine corps and make our communities safer.
Putnam County has freezers that can store up to 6,000 doses of the vaccine at sub-zero temperatures and County Executive Odell said the county will offer space in its freezers to any neighboring counties that don’t have adequate cold storage capacity.
For more information, check the county health department’s COVID-19 vaccine page putnamcountyny.com/covid-19-vaccine-information/.