BATAVIA — One quick and notable thing about the region’s COVID-19 vaccine clinics.
Back in January, you’d hear stories of desperation — in one case, a person drove all the way from New York City to the Wyoming County Highway Department just to get a shot. Or a “pop up” clinic at GCC getting swamped with people from outside the area within about 20 minutes of its announcement.
That’s not the case now, as area health departments offer more and more clinics, with vaccinations becoming easier for those who want them. The percentages of vaccinated residents is slowly creeping up.
But area health officials would still like to see more. And they’ve got a message: Please get your shot.
“The GLOW counties are still lagging in getting vaccine into the arms of our residents,” said spokeswoman Nola Goodrich-Kresse of the Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments. “ ... Our departments and county volunteers are working hard to get the vaccine we are allocated into the arms of our residents and those from other areas who are seeking vaccine.”
The number of clinics has increased throughout the region as the supply itself ramps up. The two counties were each typically receiving about 100 doses weekly in January, which has now increased to 500 for each per week. Livingston County, the largest of the GLOW counties by population, is seeing about 800 doses per week, according to Livingston County Public Health Director Jennifer Rodriguez.
But if the state wants to set up another “pop up” clinic, officials are receptive.
“We are not opposed to the state setting up a (Mass Vaccination Site) at GCC if desired,” Goodrich-Kresse said. “This location would provide a geographically central location for several rural counties including those centered between Monroe and Erie Counties. In lieu of that, we continue to push for additional doses for our counties.”
As of Thursday, it was hard to tell how the expanded eligibility — now age 16 and older — will affect things, she said.
“The current issue is that our counties currently don’t have Pfizer vaccine available and that is the only vaccine recommended for the 16 to 17-year-olds who would like to be vaccinated,” she said. “The only place these young people can get the vaccine right now is through the state-run clinics. They also must have a parent or legal guardian with them in order to get the vaccine and be able to return for the second dose in 21 days after they receive the first dose.”
The counties would need a supply of first-dose Pfizer vaccine to start vaccinating those younger than 18, she said.
Livingston County has been receiving the Moderna vaccine, which is authorized for people age 18 and older.
As for Johnson & Johnson?
“Currently we are focusing on specific populations for the J&J since it is one dose, we are looking at those who are homebound, farm workers, transient populations, but will also potentially use it at clinics as supply increases,” Goodrich-Kresse said. “Due to the recent loss of millions of doses, there will be a delay in having J&J available at public clinics for the next several weeks. We are encouraging folks to take any of the vaccines that are available versus waiting.”
Livingston County did receive about 500 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for use yesterday in a clinic specific to SUNY Geneseo students. The clinic was part of the state’s effort to vaccinate SUNY students before they return home at the end of the semester.
“Anyone can give Johnson & Johnson, but since college kids will be going home they wouldn’t be able to come for second doses, and inmates who are released as hard to contact for a second dose, so Johnson & Johnson makes sense” for those populations, Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said there has been some challenges in filling vaccination appointments in Livingston County, which she attributes to people’s desire for the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine and vaccine hesitancy, or the uncertainty among some people to use a new vaccine.
“There is cherry picking now,” she said, referring to people’s decision to make vaccine appointments at locations where their desired vaccine is available. We only have Moderna and people want Johnson & Johnson.”
Livingston County is doing a lot of outreach to make people aware of its vaccine clinics, and also making efforts to get the vaccine to those who are incarcerated and homeless.
As before, limited broadband access has made it hard for some residents to get appointments. But no matter the issue, COVID-19 is still dangerous — deadly for some people — and is still spreading.
“For those who want the vaccine they are getting it,” Goodrich-Kresse said. “For those who are still on the fence there is plenty of information available to help them make the decision to get vaccinated. The vaccine is safe and it is showing that it is effective in keeping people out of the hospital and it will reduce the risk of severe illness. We continue to encourage our residents to talk with their primary care providers about whether they should be vaccinated.”