‘Outrageous, An Embarrassment’ – Picente Rips State Over Vaccine Shortage
Oneida County has had to close its two COVID-19 vaccination sites due to a lack of the vaccine, yet thousands of doses are available but sitting unused at the moment at a state-run POD at the SUNY Poly campus in Marcy, County Executive Anthony Picente said Friday as he lashed out at the state for its handling of the vaccine's distribution while standing in front of a now closed Oneida County POD in Rome.
Picente called the state's handling thus far 'outrageous' and 'an embarrassment', saying earlier this week Oneida County Health officials received 500 doses of the vaccine - or as he referred to it, 'one day's worth.' He said all the doses received so far by the county have been administered 'flawlessly' via the county's POD plan, executed at both MVCC in Utica and Griffiss Airport in Rome. To the airport location specifically, the county executive said it was 'ideal for seniors, the elderly and the disabled', touting the convenience it provides as a drive-thru vaccination site, allowing the elderly to stay in their cars and avoid walking through the cold and snow to receive a shot.
''This is going to be the coldest weekend of the year so far,'' Picente said.
If you asked the Governor, Picente said, he'll tell you the federal government didn't give the state enough. 'But it gave them enough for them (the state run POD sites), and took it away from us,' Picente said.
'They have thousands of vaccine up at SUNY Poly. They couldn't give us 200 doses a day for seniors in this community?', Picente asked. 'Don't tell me you don't have a enough when you can schedule appointments for people from all across to come here through April, but we don't have enough for the most vulnerable in this community.'
He also mentioned the debacle that unfolded last week where hundreds of area residents singed up to be inoculated and booked appointments via a state weblink, only to receive notification later that their appointments were cancelled because the location - the Utica AUD Annex building - wasn't currently taking reservations. State officials later blamed hackers leaking the appointment signup link before the location was ready.
However, some listeners to the Keeler Show said although they booked an appointment at the Aud Annex building, they later received a confirmation email/reminder directing them to the SUNY Poly site. Some told WIBX, when they arrived for that appointment, they were still turned away.
When asked when he'd be able to re-open the two county-run site in Oneida County, Picente wasn't sure, saying 'hopefully' the state would deliver another shipment next Wednesday - but that he wasn't sure, and that if the state did come through, he didn't know how many doses would be coming.
If the state does come through, Picente says local officials have identified upto 40 sites in the county that could serve as PODs to make the operation as convenient as possible.
Meanwhile representatives from state, including the health department and Governor Cuomo's office are firing back at Picente, calling his tirade political and inaccurate.
This statement from the Governor's Spokesman, Jack Stern:
“The County Executive clearly hasn’t been paying attention, so we’ll repeat the rules for him again: counties are only responsible for vaccinating essential workers, while pharmacies, health clinics, doctors’ offices, and state sites should be vaccinating seniors. Let’s cut the politics – the only way we can distribute vaccines equitably given the lackluster federal supply is by following these simple rules. County Executive Picente should know better and if he’s been misinforming his constituents, all of this confusion falls squarely on his shoulders.”
Also, in an email that included the above statement, Erin Silk, a representative of the New York State Department of Health said the claim Picente made about the SUNY Poly location having plenty of vaccine to share with the county, isn't true:
Last, the assertion that vaccine is sitting unused at SUNY Poly is patently false. As you can see from the State’s website there are no available appointments at SUNY Poly. The reason we are able to schedule appointments at state-run sites through April is because, as Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa highlighted this week, we were VERY conservative in our scheduling because we knew there were supply constraints from the feds.
Melissa DeRosa: So there have been no cancellations of any appointments at any of the State-run sites. We were incredibly conservative with the number of appointments that we set up there. We, as the Governor said, took the approach of get it up and running and then we know we can scale up very quickly in case we get an influx from the feds. We can take Javits from 1,000 a day to 10,000 a day like that. But we’re going to only do 1,000 for a day and for the next few weeks as has been scheduled out. We are confident that we have scheduled appointments for which the vaccine we are going to have because we did it at such a low manageable level.
When asked to clarify whether the SUNY Poly POD had supply on-hand to fill the appointments booked as far out as March and April? Or if the appointments were booked with anticipation that the state would receive more vaccine in the future to fulfill those appointments? - Silk replied: They are pending receipt of additional vaccine from the feds – remember, as the Gov said today, we’re about to run out of doses statewide – but the state sites are scheduled at such a low volume that we are confident we will receive the doses needed.
Meanwhile, Governor Cuomo said Friday that more vaccine is on it's way to New York.
Video from Friday's presser outside of the POD at Griffiss Airport in Rome was streamed on the county's Facebook page: