It is not yet known how vaccines will be handled in the Twin Counties as immunizations become more widespread. File photo

HUDSON — New York has begun to distribute COVID-19 vaccine doses, but it is unclear yet how inoculations will be handled in the Twin Counties.

New York state was given an initial 170,000 doses of the COVID vaccine manufactured by New York City pharmaceutical company Pfizer.

“The only thing we’ve heard out of the 170,000 is what came to the Capital Region,” said Jack Mabb, director of the Columbia County Department of Health. “It was about 8,000 doses given to the Capital Region and I know 975 of those went to Albany Med, but we haven’t heard anything more than that.”

While it remains unclear how vaccine doses will be distributed locally, the availability of a vaccine is good news, Greene County Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, said Monday.

“I think everybody is happy to see the vaccines coming,” Linger said. “Obviously if we can protect our vulnerable population that will go a long way towards bringing some of these numbers down.”

New York state opted into the federal government’s program, Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, for COVID-19 vaccination. Under the federal program, employees of CVS, Walgreens and other select pharmacies will vaccinate residents and staff in long-term care facilities including nursing homes, similar to how they do for the flu vaccine, according to the state’s COVID-19 vaccine website.

“The way the vaccine is going to work is the federal government will be responsible for the procurement and the distribution,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said earlier this month. “The military is doing the transportation with private companies, and they will send it where we ask them to send it. We then set the priorities for not only where it goes, but who gets it. The first allocation is for nursing home residents, nursing home staff and high-risk health care workers. We’ve identified 90 regional centers that can keep the vaccine at the required temperature and they’ll act as distribution centers for that region.”

Cuomo announced last Friday the COVID vaccine would begin to be distributed to 618 nursing homes in the state Monday with the help of CVS and Walgreens pharmacy workers.

The vaccines that began to be distributed Monday are being given to residents and staff at long-term care facilities, according to the CVS COVID vaccine webpage. The number of clinics held by CVS is determined by the number of long-term care facilities that select CVS Health as their vaccine partner through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey process. As of Nov. 18, over 25,000 sites have selected CVS Health to provide vaccinations in their facility.

The state Department of Health did not immediately respond to questions about where those vaccines would be given and how many people would be vaccinated at those locations.

The Pharmacy Partnership for Long-term Care was created to facilitate safe vaccination of this patient population, and help to reduce the burden on long-term care facilities and health departments, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

“Those vaccines didn’t come through us,” Mabb said. “We would have gladly handed it out to them, but it makes better sense to either ship it directly to the nursing home or to ship it to CVS and Walgreens.”

The state has established vaccination hubs, which are led by local hospital systems to work with community leaders to develop regional vaccine networks, Mabb said. Albany Medical Center is the hub for the Capital Region.

“What comes out of Albany gets to be very confusing,” Mabb said. “One minute they’re telling you their expectation is that you’re going to be vaccinating EMS (emergency medical service workers) and first responders, and then this hub gets created and now apparently Columbia Memorial Hospital is going to be doing the vaccinations of EMS.”

The county’s immunization nurse has been communicating regularly with the hospital, Mabb said.

“We’ve got vaccinators, we’re ready to go. We’ve got a community site that we can do it in and we’re ready to work with them,” Mabb said.

The Columbia County Department of Health has reported 1,313 positive COVID cases since the beginning of the pandemic. There were 110 active positive cases in the county and eight people hospitalized because of COVID-19, as of Sunday.

Greene County Public Health has reported 959 positive cases since the beginning of the pandemic. There were 101 active cases countywide and 15 hospitalized due to the virus as of Friday afternoon.

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