Vaccinations begin in Twin Counties

A syringe containing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Courtesy of Tribune News Service

Vaccination for COVID-19 is underway in the Twin Counties.

Columbia County administered its first round of vaccines Saturday and Greene County received its first shipment of vaccines Tuesday, with plans to vaccinate later this week.

Those eligible for vaccination in Phase 1A are residents and staff at nursing homes and other congregate-care facilities; high-risk hospital workers; federally qualified health care employees; emergency medical services workers; coroners, medical examiners and certain funeral workers; staff and residents at the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, Office of Mental Health and Office of Addiction Services and Support facilities; urgent care providers and people who are administering COVID-19 vaccines.

Greene County was allocated 1,000 vaccines from the state, Greene County Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, said.

“As of this morning, we did receive our first delivery of vaccines,” he said. “The vaccines are for a very specific group of people. Those people are being reached out to as we speak. It is not available yet for the general public.”

The county will need additional vaccines to get through Phase 1, Linger said.

“One thousand won’t get us all the way through Phase 1,” he said.

The county’s first vaccination site will be the Robert C. Antonelli Senior Center, Linger said.

“We will have a POD, or point of distribution, hopefully Thursday and or Friday of this week,” he said.

About a dozen county employees will be needed to staff the POD, Linger said.

“[Recipients] have to be monitored for 12 to 30 minutes after so you have to have a place to monitor them and people to monitor,” he said.

The county requested the Moderna vaccine because it is easier to store, Linger said.

The vaccination of nursing home residents will be handled through a federal contract with CVS and Walgreens, Linger said.

Columbia County Department of Health Director Jack Mabb said the county’s Health Department gave 109 doses of the COVID vaccine to county residents on Saturday at the county’s first COVID vaccine POD event at Columbia-Greene Community College.

“We are working within a very small prescribed group from the state Health Department,” said Mabb. “We’re doing EMS and group homes and some hospital staff, but the vaccine is starting to get out in the community. I think it’s a sign of hope, that we’re getting there.”

Mabb said it is important for people to understand the Department of Health will vaccinate people who are in the appropriate category when their time comes.

“So don’t call the Health Department asking to get a shot because we are only doing what the state calls 1-A, which is health care providers, group home operators, as of this week school nurses are eligible, dentists, physical therapists, occupational therapists — those eligible individuals are the only ones we can vaccinate now.”

The department is holding another event for vaccinating those who are eligible on Saturday at Columbia-Greene Community College, Mabb said.

The next category of people eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine are categorized as 1-B, which will include people older than 75 and essential workers, he said. Mabb estimates the county may be able to get into the next category of vaccine recipients by the end of January.

Columbia Memorial Health expects to have all eligible staff vaccinated by the end of the week, spokesman Bill VanSlyke said.

The Columbia County Department of Health held its latest COVID-19 testing clinic Tuesday at the firemen’s training center in Commerce Park. Mabb said this was a trial to see how things went to determine if that site would work as a location for COVID vaccinations.

“It went very well. I think it will work as a site if we decide to do drive-up vaccine clinics,” Mabb said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday the federal government controls the vaccine supply and allocates it to the states. New York has been getting 300,000 vaccine doses per week, or about 1.2 million doses per month of the vaccines manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna. New York will need between 20 million to 40 million doses of the vaccine to ensure everyone in the state who wants to be vaccinated is inoculated, depending on the type of vaccine they receive.

Cuomo and other officials expect the nation’s vaccine supply to continue to increase if the Food and Drug Administration approves a coronavirus immunization from other drugmakers.

Oxford-Astra Zeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine is pending approval and a prospective vaccine from Johnson & Johnson will only require one dose.

The New York State County Executives Association met via Zoom on Tuesday to discuss COVID vaccinations and vaccine distribution.

“We heard today from the governor, I think some positive movement, but to our point, and on behalf of the counties of New York, we want to reiterate, we have the plans in place,” said New York State County Executives Association President and Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro.

“Activating them, using them and implementing them is a logical step that is necessary uniformly across the state of New York so that the counties and the public aren’t getting a different plan in each community,” Molinaro said.

Counties also need more access to COVID-related data and demographics so the counties, along with the state, can track vaccines and where they should target resources, Molinaro said.

Kate Lisa contributed to this report.

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