CATSKILL — Questions about the delta variant’s prevalence in Greene County and vaccine outreach sparked discussion at the Greene County Legislature’s Health Services Committee Wednesday.
Greene County Public Health Director Kimberly Kaplan updated lawmakers on the pandemic before the committee voted on a state vaccine funding resolution.
“Now it’s mostly the delta variant,” Kaplan said. “It went from being a small percentage to almost the whole thing in a very small amount of time because the delta variant is very good at spreading.”
Kaplan said Public Health does not get to see who gets which variant because it is monitored at the state level.
Although the delta variant spreads perniciously, Kaplan said positives have not spiked at nursing homes. But places where people congregate show evidence of rapid spreading.
“Earlier on, if everybody was careful, you could avoid some of that household spread. Now, it’s really hard to do that. You’ve got to be really diligent and lucky,” Kaplan said.
Kaplan said it is key to remember that the spread begins before anyone is sick.
Legislator Michael Bulich, R-Catskill, asked about the combined level of natural immunity from the virus after contracting it combined with vaccination immunity.
“The natural immunity following infection is finite. It’s thought to be about three months ... after that, it’s really not a factor,” Kaplan said.
Kaplan said some people don’t realize the immunity fades after infection.
“It is apparent that people who are fully vaccinated are less likely to become very ill, hospitalized or die,” Kaplan said.
Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, asked if the county would have access to data to administer booster shots for those inoculated first.
“The governor yesterday did say that the boosters, amazingly enough, the counties are going to be the ones to roll the boosters out because that’s our wheelhouse, that’s what we do, in stark contrast to what we saw when they first came out,” Linger said.
Kaplan said the county has access to the state’s vaccine database.
“The way it works now is people with certain medical vulnerabilities, people who are immunocompromised in certain categories, are eligible for boosters. That is general recommendation, but yes, it will have to be because you need a certain duration from the last vaccine of the two-dose to when you get the booster,” Kaplan said.
People in those categories have been registering for the booster, Kaplan said, resulting in a “pretty good turnout.”
Bulich asked if the booster was like the yearly flu shot. Kaplan said that is the premise of the booster, but more will be known about coronavirus evolution over time.
“The flu is a little bit different because the flu has now been an annual event for a long time, so what they do is they look at the flu in other parts of the world, and as that flu is evolving and its getting toward our flu season, they formulate the vaccine,” Kaplan said.
The resolution would allow Greene County Public Health receive a grant from the state Department of Health “to promote and increase COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccine uptake, with at least 20% of the funding to be used to conduct activities to promote and increase COVID-19 and other vaccine uptake in racial and ethnic minority groups and to increase accessibility for people with disabilities.” The grant is for just over $68,000.
Legislator Jack Keller, R-Catskill, said he hadn’t heard of people in the county who wanted the vaccine being denied it.
“If anything, in the beginning of this whole pandemic, we were the ones begging the state for shots, and they were circumventing us,” Keller said.
Linger said a lot of state grants have similar stipulations for things that rarely happen in the county, such as terror attacks. He said the grant was written into the COVID plan last December, and the grant applies to more shots than just COVID.
“It’s their requirement, not ours, in order to get the funding,” Linger said.
The resolution passed committee and will be up for a vote of the full Legislature on Sept. 15.