HUDSON — Half of Columbia County residents have received their COVID-19 vaccine.
The state COVID vaccine tracker reported as of Sunday morning 49.7% of Columbia County residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
“I think for us to move the dial, the math on this is, if we’re going to increase by 1% more, that takes 600 people getting vaccinated,” Department of Health Director Jack Mabb said. “We have to find ways of getting out to the population and reaching them where they are.”
The next issue for health departments is finding people who still have not had their shot and are willing to get it. Earlier in the vaccination process, vaccine pods were quickly filling up; all available appointments at large county vaccine pods would sometimes fill up in less than one hour.
There were also numerous reports of local people traveling out of the county and going to state vaccine sites as far away as Potsdam, Syracuse and other locations where they could get an appointment.
“We only had 62 people show up, which is disappointing,” Mabb said. It’s the other side of the coin it’s what every other county is experiencing. The link was open literally all week long.”
The Columbia County Department of Health currently has links open for pods being held in schools, Mabb said. Students who are 16 or 17 years of age are eligible to receive a vaccine. Mabb said about 130 students have signed up so far in the county.
The county is administering the Pfizer vaccine and is allowing people to make appointments or to walk in a vaccine pod Wednesday at the Chatham Fairgrounds from 4-6 p.m. and another pod on Friday at the community college from 10 a.m. to noon.
“Once we established a time and a link, we had a few more students trickle in,” Mabb said. “But it’s still going to be kind of disappointing. We’re strategizing about how do we do better in the minority population. Our senior numbers are a little bit lower than the region, so how do we reach more seniors. We’re talking about doing a pop-up in the neighborhood of Bliss Towers. we’ve got permission to use John L. Edwards again.”
Several county health departments in the Capital Region have said they set up vaccine pods at their local farmer’s markets Mabb said. He said he is going to get in contact with the people who run the farmer’s market and talk about trying it here.
“Although with that I do think we will reach a lot more city-people who are up here for the weekend than we might reach of the county population,” Mabb said. “I think from here on out we have to do a lot of little pods.”
There is also talk about doing a standing vaccine pod at the department on the same day they do other immunizations, Mabb said.
The department of health is pre-booking 300 doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, Mabb said. The department is planning to hold a vaccine pod next week where the single-dose vaccine will be available.
“That’s the one thing we haven’t done,” Mabb said. “We do know that here’s a group of people out there, we don’t know what the number is, who want the single-dose, even with the pause, and the issues with it.”
Last month use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was temporarily paused after six people developed blood clots after receiving the vaccine. On April 23, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the pause restriction should be lifted and use of the vaccine could continue.
In a joint statement, the FDA and CDC said, “At this time, the available data suggest that the chance of TTS (thrombosis-thrombocytopenia syndrome) occurring is very low, but the FDA and CDC will remain vigilant in continuing to investigate this risk.”
Pfizer is seeking approval to be administered to children 12 and up. Mabb said once it is approved, that group will be the next the county can target.
“I think that that’s the point,” Mabb said. When we get passed the folks who we think might want the single dose of J&J and we get past doing kids down to 12. I think the next group might be kids younger than 12, but I think were going to be trickling in with the rest of the population. That will be people who have been thinking about getting it, and putting it off, and if we’re in the right place at the right time they get the shot. But we’re absolutely done with the large pods.”