HUDSON — With vaccines going out to counties, officials are pondering how to reach residents who are most at risk for serious cases of COVID-19 — seniors and the homebound.
The Columbia County Board of Supervisors met Wednesday to have their coronavirus questions answered in a session with local health officials and one of the biggest concerns was how seniors and those confined to their homes will get the vaccine.
“We were one of four counties in the state that indicated back in the third week of December that we would start taking vaccines that week,” said Columbia County Department of Health Director Jack Mabb. “They gave us 100 doses and we set up in the gym at Columbia-Greene Community College.”
At the second vaccination POD (point of distribution), the county vaccinated 270 people including health care workers, Mabb said. The county held its third vaccination POD on Wednesday morning and vaccinated another 269 people.
“We had planned on vaccinating 250 this morning,” Mabb said Wednesday. “But as you probably have been hearing on the national media, some of these vials are overfilled, so we managed to get 19 more vaccines out of these, so we did 269 this morning.”
By the end of this week, the county will have vaccinated about 1,200 people so far. The county has the capability to vaccinate up to about 2,000 people a week if given enough vaccines, Mabb said.
After an update about the county’s latest COVID-19 data, board members had the opportunity to ask questions about the virus. One area of concern was getting vaccinations to seniors who may not have internet access to register for the vaccine, the capability to drive to a vaccination clinic or the ability to stand for a period of time during the clinic to await their shot.
Earlier this week, New York state began allowing people in the 1B category to be eligible to receive their vaccination, includes anyone over the age of 65.
Greenport Town Supervisor Kathy Eldridge asked about seniors who are unable to leave their home to go and get the vaccination.
Several counties, including Albany County, have set up programs where people who have been trained to give the vaccine can go to the homes of homebound individuals to inoculate them.
The Albany County program is run through the sheriff’s office. Last week, Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple announced his team was in the final stage of implementing the “Community Paramedicine Program,” which will go to the homes of seniors and homebound individuals to vaccinate them.
Columbia County EMS Coordinator and Treasurer P.J. Keeler said a proposal has been submitted to the state for approval to create a similar program in Columbia County. It is not known when a decision from the state will be made.
Eldridge also said she has been told by some older residents they would have issues standing while they wait for their turn to get vaccinated.
Austerlitz Town Supervisor Robert Lagonia said when he was at the vaccination site he saw people provided with a wheelchair while they waited.
Kinderhook Town Supervisor Patsy Leader said she spent the previous day helping seniors register for the vaccine.
“I spent yesterday trying to help seniors because they one, don’t have the internet, they don’t even own a computer or an iPhone, so my landline was coming off the wall, people asking, please come and help me,” Leader said. “And I would take their information and do it myself. Unfortunately, they don’t even drive. There’s a good number of them that don’t even drive.”
Leader spoke with the Office for the Aging and the Meals on Wheels program, and suggested including the vaccine telephone number in a memo with the meals that are delivered.
Canaan Town Supervisor Brenda Adams asked about vaccinating seniors in pharmacies. Some seniors have told her they regularly go to the pharmacy and would be comfortable receiving the vaccine there, Adams said.
The issue with vaccinating in pharmacies is the amount of available space, Mabb said.
“The issue is that pharmacies aren’t really equipped to handle a lot of people coming in,” Mabb said. “I have a list of pharmacies that we got in an email last night. There are no pharmacies in Columbia County on this list as having received vaccines. There are a handful of pharmacies in the Capital Region that appear to have gotten about 100 vaccines apiece.”