HEADLINES

Officials in Putnam County ask, “Where is our Vaccine?”

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 February 16th, the department has administered 1740 first doses and 907 second doses.  

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

“We understand that the entire process of scheduling a vaccine is frustrating for people. We are frustrated too,” says County Executive MaryEllen Odell. Putnam County officials state that they continue to advocate for more vaccine to be available for residents. The County Executive continues, “We see the eligibility groups expand, but the supply doesn’t meet the demand still. 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 NYS 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 NYS 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. 

County Executive Odell reminds residents that 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. They should not have to travel or search for a vaccine provider.” 

Health Commissioner Michael J. Nesheiwat, MD says, “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. We will continue to demand more vaccines for Putnam, so our pharmacies can also be better supplied for our seniors. 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. This week, on top of the supply and demand imbalance, the region is 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, PCDOH only schedules appointments when they have vaccine “in the refrigerator.” Kathleen Percacciolo says, “Rather than having to cancel appointments, it is more efficient to schedule as we receive. If we begin to receive more doses, we will revise plans as needed.” 

The timeline below offers a snapshot of the ever-changing status of vaccine supplies:  

  • February 13th  
  • Good news! NYS informed PCDOH that an increased shipment of 500 first-dose vaccines would be delivered to Putnam.  
  • Expanded eligibility announced. PCDOH informed they will be receiving vaccine to be used toward vaccinating residents with comorbidities (according to the NYSDOH priority list). Exact amount to be determined.  
  • Return to sender. Vaccine tracking shows second–dose vaccine expected to arrive February 16th was re-routed back to Kentucky, due to weather and in order to keep the vaccine at the correct temperature.  
  • February 14th  
  • Correction issued. PCDOH informed NYS is shipping LESS vaccine than previously stated. Less than 24 hours after notification of an increase in vaccines, PCDOH receives correction email stating shipment will contain the same allocation as previous weeks (200 first-doses). 
  • Today, February 16th:  
  • Where is our vaccine? No shipment updates for delayed second-dose vaccines and no notification of additional first-dose vaccines. If an individual received their first dose from PCDOH, rest assured, they will get their second dose within the appropriate timeframe.  

 The PCDOH has confirmed that there will be more providers in Putnam to facilitate vaccination of residents with comorbidities. Healthcare providers looking to become an approved COVID-19 vaccine provider can visit: https://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, Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell continues to push the state to address gaps in communication and information. County Executive Odell led a regional effort with county executives Neuhaus, Molinaro, and Day to bring together state lawmakers and call for improved communication from the state along with the needed increase in vaccine supply. 

Refer to the table below for regional vaccination stats.  

County  Percent of Statewide Population  Percent of Statewide Doses Received  Percent of County Population with First Dose 
Orange  1.95%  1.30%  6.66% 
Dutchess  1.50%  1.21%  8.31% 
Sullivan  0.39%  0.24%  6.29% 
Ulster  0.91%  0.82%  9.01% 
Putnam  0.51%  0.55%  10.98% 
Rockland  1.67%  1.70%  10.64% 
Westchester  4.95%  5.88%  11.54% 
       
Percent of New York State Population with First Dose  10.17% 

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