As COVID-19 inoculations continue in the Twin Counties, some residents are still fearful of the vaccine, Greene County Paramedics Chief of Operations Stephen Brucato said.
“I know the technology is relatively new, but it’s nothing people should be afraid of,” Brucato, who received his first dose of the Moderna vaccine Thursday, said. “The technology is safe, the vaccine is safe and they shouldn’t be afraid to take it.”
Brucato said he experienced some soreness in his arm after receiving the vaccine, much like a flu shot.
Vaccine recipients who have had the virus may experience more pronounced side effects, Brucato said, adding he had a mild case of COVID-19 in November.
“About 24 hours after I got it, I had more pronounced symptoms,” he said. “I had a low-grade fever of 100 degrees, some chills, some flushing and a headache, which all resolved in about 12-16 hours and I felt fine.”
Brucato said he viewed having a reaction as a positive thing.
“I like to stress to people — that’s a good thing, that’s your body’s immune system creating antibodies,” he said. “Getting a reaction, I think people interpret that as getting sick or getting the virus. No, it’s your body doing what it’s supposed to do when you get a vaccine.”
As a first responder, Brucato said it was important for him to get inoculated.
“As a paramedic, I wanted to make sure I’m protecting myself and protecting my patients,” he said. “Personally, I did it because I want to go to family events again and I want to be able to protect my family and friends.”
Greene County vaccinated 522 people last week and have another POD, or point of distribution, scheduled for Tuesday from noon-4 p.m. at the Robert C. Antonelli Senior Center in Catskill. To be eligible, residents must be in the 1A group and have an appointment.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo reported last week that 900,000 vaccines have been distributed to the group of about 2.1 million people.
Group 1A includes health care providers that directly interact with patients and other critical hospital workers; seniors living in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities; and people with disabilities living in congregate settings.
“We need to make sure we get enough people vaccinated to have herd immunity and be able to go back to having some sort of normalcy,” Brucato said.
Greene County has used a little over half of the 1,000 Moderna vaccines it received and the supply will be depleted by the end of the week, Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, said. The county has been allocated an additional 500 vaccines, Linger said, adding that he does not know when they will arrive.
“There is no option for local governments to go out and purchase the vaccine on the market like we did with the tests,” Linger said. “It’s only available to federal government.”
The state has been receiving about 300,000 doses per week and the 1B group is about 1.4 million people or 2.8 million doses, Linger said.
The 1B group includes residents over 75; first responders; corrections officers; teachers and other school staff; in-person college instructors; childcare workers; grocery store workers that interact directly with the public; transit workers and individuals living and working in homeless shelters.
Other states, such as Florida, are setting the parameters at 65 and up. The county has more data available on residents 65 and up, Linger said.
“If the criteria was 65 and up, we have a lot of databases we could pull from to get that — property tax exemptions, Medicare,” Linger said. “The data is not as available for 75 and up.”
The county will use information from the Social Services Department, the Department of the Aging and the sheriff’s call-in program to identify individuals eligible for the vaccine, Linger said. Information will also be collected from residents who call the Emergency Operations Center, he said.
Residents who are eligible to be vaccinated must register through the state portal at https://am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/ or by calling the state’s vaccination hotline at 1-833-697-4829.
Linger reported that a handful of people had to be turned away last week because although they registered, they were not eligible.
“They either misinterpreted the questions through the portal or by some other nefarious means, but they were not eligible,” Linger said.
Residents in group 1A must verify their eligibility at the vaccination site with their confirmation number, a work ID or a pay stub, Linger said.
Looking forward, the county will need to have multiple vaccination sites, Linger said.
“We need to do more than one site, so the goal here is to get people trained to do it and do multiple sites simultaneously in different parts of the county,” Linger said.
Licensed practical nurses, licensed pharmacists with or without certification to administer immunizations, midwives, dentists, certain dental hygienists, podiatrists, EMTs and advanced EMTs are eligible to administer the vaccine, as well as medical, nursing, physician assistant, pharmacy, dentistry, podiatry and midwifery students with one year of clinical experience.
Those wishing to volunteer can sign up at https://apps.health.ny.gov/pub/servny/
Greene County continued to have the highest positivity rate in the Capital Region on Monday with a seven-day average of 10.4%. The county had a total of 343 active cases on Friday, 32 residents hospitalized, 438 residents on quarantined and 39 COVID-related deaths.
The Columbia County Department of Health held its second vaccination point of distribution, or POD, Saturday and vaccinated 290 individuals with their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, Health Department Director Jack Mabb said Monday. On the previous weekend, 109 individuals were vaccinated.
Columbia County will be holding its next vaccination POD this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, Mabb said.
“I only have 215 vaccines available for each day Wednesday and Thursday, and I have 300 available on Friday,” he said.
Eligible individuals must register for the upcoming PODs and the website link to sign up is being sent to those who are eligible.
Columbia County launched its COVID-19 vaccine information line Monday. For information about the vaccine and to see if you are eligible, call 518-697-5560.
“When the governor decided to open up the 1B category, which is a huge category if you think about it — seniors over 75, law enforcement, police, fire, teachers — it’s a huge category,” Mabb said. “We got hammered over the weekend with phone calls and emails from people just looking to know when they can get their vaccine.”
Other area health departments have faced similar challenges, Mabb said. The Rensselaer County phone system crashed because of the influx of calls from people asking when they could get their COVID vaccine. Rensselaer County also had to bring in deputies because people were showing up at the door of the Health Department demanding to be vaccinated, Mabb said.
“Thank God we didn’t have that happen in Columbia County,” Mabb noted. “I understand completely people’s desire to get the vaccine, but they have to understand there’s a couple thousand people in this category in Columbia County.”
The vaccines that will dispensed by the county on Wednesday and Thursday came from Columbia Memorial Health last week, Mabb said. The 300 vaccines that will be given Friday is the county’s vaccine allotment for the week.
“My allotment for this week is 300 vaccines,” said Mabb. “That’s all I got. Obviously it’s going to take me a very long time at that rate to vaccinate everyone in 1B. So the message has to be to people, for God’s sake, be patient, because unless there’s a serious change in the amount of vaccines that we’re getting from the state, we’re just not going to be able to get to people for weeks and weeks in this category. “