Hurry Up and Wait! Local Officials Uncertain on Arrival Date of More Vaccines, and How Many
New York State's COVID-19 vaccine rollout lacks clarity and cohesiveness. And, at this time, enough doses. It's not clear whether current delays for those desperately seeking inoculation can be blamed on the state, the feds, or the vaccine makers. And, it's not about blaming one entity or another, but one thing is certain, and it's unsettling for many: When you ask local officials for specific answers on timelines for the various phases, or how many vaccines will arrive in their next shipment, or when that shipment is due, they don't actually know.
Here's what we do know:
Now, in Week 5 of the vaccine's availability in Oneida County, the county POD (Point of Distribution) at MVCC had administered a first shot of the vaccine to approximately 1,400 people. More than 6,700 shots have been given through MVHS, and approximately 2,500 more through Rome Memorial Hospital. And, some area chain pharmacies have inoculated some, but how many, and how many doses they have left is unclear.
Oneida County government officials say they've received two shipments thus far, totaling 4,300 single doses. Oneida County residents now eligible in Phase 1A and 1B can now sign up to be vaccinated at OCgov.net.
The schedule only runs through this Friday, the 15th, for the MVCC location. It's booked solid. Also, just added Wednesday is another POD slated to open this Friday at Griffiss Airport in Rome, but that's already filled up, too.
When asked, Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente explained the county is booking appointments based on the supply they have on-hand. No sense scheduling appointments for future dates if there is uncertainty when more is coming, he said. And, how many?
You'd just have to cancel and reschedule all those appointments you booked, if the appointments show up and they have no vaccines.
And that is in fact the case, according to Picente, who said the county health department placed an initial order of 10,000 shots. So far they've received a total of just 4,300. Both of those shipments have come on Tuesdays, prompting the county executive to speculate that Tuesdays might be 'delivery day' for the state.
But, if more are coming next Tuesday, how many?
He doesn't know.
Further, Mohawk Valley Health System has received and administered all of the 6,707 doses it has received since mid-December, officials said this week. But those didn't go only to Oneida County residents. Many did, but that total also includes initial shots of the vaccine for frontline hospital workers in the entire Mohawk Valley region: defined as Oneida, Herkimer, Otsego, Fulton, Montgomery and Schoharie counties.
Currently, as of this posting on Wednesday evening, MVHS had exactly zero doses left to administer. And they've had exactly zero shots left since at least Tuesday, the prior day.
Kudos to their staff for tending to a community that grows more infected everyday, which stretches the hospital system more and more everyday, to include the mounting physical and emotional toll taken on Utica's healthcare workers, along with limited physical resources needed to save lives. Oh, yeah, plus the whole part about serving as the one-stop-COVID-19-vaccine-shop for all healthcare workers employed at every hospital in a six-county area.
You know, the 'new norm', as they call it!
On Tuesday, the hospital's VP of Marketing and Communications, Caitlyn McCann, sent a statement to local media and public urging patience. This as their POD at the St. Elizabeth College of Nursing has done all it can, for now:
"It is difficult to schedule appointments without knowing when vaccines will arrive. If you have questions or would like further information, please call the State vaccination hotline at 1-833-697-4829. We remain committed to keeping our community informed through regular updates."
A caller to the Keeler Show on Wednesday said he drove out to Oneonta this week to get his first shot. Saying he has underlying medical issues, including COPD, he didn't wanna wait any longer. With all the local appointments already taken, he figured he'd search around NYS Department of Health website and found an opening at a medical center in Otsego County.
But, is this what people are going to have to do every week? Scramble to a website on Sunday night or Monday morning, try to find an available slot in the next week or so in their own community? And, if not, plan to drive three hours round trip to 'find' an available dose that is earmarked for residents in another county?
I hope not.
Ironically, I wrote a post early this week that included in part of the title, 'Who's Next?', where Picente said he was hopeful to have shots in the arms of all Oneida County residents who wished to be vaccinated by sometime in late March. Governor Cuomo himself has publicly opined that maybe that goal could be reached statewide by sometime in April. This after the governor threatened to fine hospitals upto $100,000 for not using up the allotments they had on-hand, stat.
And now they have. So, what now?
If the rollout from the state to local communities continues to be....start, go faster, stop. No, go again....hurry up. Hang on...we have more...now it's gone...we'll send you more...how many?...we don't know...ask us next week..., it is going to be a VERY long winter, spring and summer for millions of central New Yorkers who want to get vaccinated and move past the death, illness, restrictions and 'new norms' COVID-19 has brought.
We aren't five-days into this, we're five weeks in. And, we've known for two months some tentative start dates and an approximate times when we'd be expecting the first vaccines to be available.
What is the hold up?
A story Wednesday from WABC 7 in New York touting the opening New York City's Javit's Center to serve as a 'mega-center' for COVID vaccination leads with this sentence:
After a rollout that some officials admit was slow, the push is on to get more people vaccinated against COVID-19 in New York -- and vaccinated quickly.
Things might be moving rolling along more smoothly in New York City, but the vaccine is still merely dripping out for many upstate.
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