Greene County municipalities make up most of lowest COVID vaccination rates in the Capital Region, according to state data.
According to the state Department of Health, seven of the 10 lowest rates of people with at least one dose of the vaccine are Greene County hamlets, towns and villages. Durham, Maplecrest, Jewett, Surprise, Coxsackie, Lexington and Oak Hill all report less than 37% of their total populations having received at least one dose of the vaccine, with Surprise reporting 28.4%.
Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden said the county challenges the reporting of numbers in these municipalities because they are based on census data, but many people list post office box addresses with their vaccine information that can be in different counties.
The data is provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and more detailed information based on age is “not reliably available at the ZIP code level due to CDC data suppression of age-based data for small sample sizes,” according to the website.
Greene County Public Health illustrated the importance of being vaccinated in terms of herd immunity in a Facebook post July 28.
“Each person who is immune protects those around them. Although this system is not an exact science, it has been incredibly effective in reducing the transmission of all communicable diseases, not just COVID-19,” the post reads.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in early June the state would be focusing vaccination efforts on ZIP codes in the bottom 10% of vaccination statewide, which at the time included four Greene County municipalities: Surprise, Jewett, Maplecrest and Durham. Cuomo also urged local health departments to push vaccines in these areas. Since then, Surprise increased 0.2 percentage points in vaccinations; Jewett increased 1.9 percentage points; Maplecrest increased 1.9 percentage points; and Durham has not changed from 34.6%, according to state data.
Groden said as of July 28, every pharmacy in the county has an inventory of the vaccine. He said people should consider the benefits of getting the vaccine, including that it is free of cost, as well as the risks of going without it.
“Why wouldn’t you vaccinate? It doesn’t cost you any money. And yes, in a very small minority of people will still come down with the virus, but your symptoms are going to be so less severe versus if you’re not vaccinated,” Groden said. “I get it, some people just are philosophically against it, and they’re not going to wear a mask anymore and OK, say you’re going to go to the grocery store or wherever, and you’re going to bring the virus home because remember that the variants spread much more easily. Are you living with a parent? Does the parent have issues, underlying issues? Are they COPD? Are they diabetics? Because they will be much more susceptible. Their immune system is just weaker to begin with.”
Groden said public health has not seen increased interest in the vaccine.
As the back-to-school season is about a month away, Groden encouraged parents to take their children ages 12 and older to a local pharmacy for a vaccination as kids will be in large groups in the classroom and in sports. Groden said Greene County Public Health has been evaluating how to safely return to school operations and if it would be possible to make a vaccination pod for schools.
“It’s very easy. Pick your name brand, bop over and get your child vaccinated pre sports. But we also talked about the concept — we get our kids vaccinated for measles and diphtheria and whooping cough or childhood vaccinations, why is there a debate or a hesitation on COVID?” Groden said. “Is the national discussion on vaccination, is it becoming so loud and so contentious? Because [Dr. Anthony] Fauci is criticized by Sen. [Rand] Paul and therefore, are people losing the message?”
Of New York State’s 62 counties, Greene County’s population ranks 51st with 47,424 people. According to Greene County Public Health, the county currently has 36 active positive cases of COVID-19, and about 49% of all residents have completed a vaccine series. According to the CDC, 60.8% of the county’s population ages 12 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
According to Greene County Public Health, since June 1, the county has had a total of 70 confirmed cases. Of those, 13 people were fully vaccinated, two were partially vaccinated and 55 were unvaccinated. Of the unvaccinated people 14 were under the age of 12 and ineligible to receive a vaccine. Of the vaccinated individuals, 10 were above 60 years of age or immunocompromised, Public Health said in a Facebook post.