Why Can’t I Get the Vaccine?

Frustrated phone call

At this early stage, it’s a matter of supply and demand: Much demand, much less supply.

The federal government is rationing the COVID-19 vaccine doses it has purchased. The limited doses that New York State receives are then rationed to its counties.

“The federal administration essentially opened up a floodgate while cutting our supply — leading to confusion, frustration and dashed hopes,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Monday (Jan. 18).

Cuomo noted on Jan. 16 that while more than 7 million New York residents are eligible to receive the vaccine, the state only expected this past week to receive 250,000 doses from the federal government.

As of Thursday, about 976,000 state residents had received a first dose and 108,500 had received a second dose, according to the state’s vaccine tracker. The Mid-Hudson region had received 111,925 doses and administered 94,191 of them, or 84 percent. 

Cuomo said the state was on pace to run out of vaccines today (Jan. 22). On Monday, he wrote Pfizer to ask if New York can buy its vaccine directly, bypassing the federal distribution program. But Pfizer responded that it does not have approval from the federal government to sell directly to states.

How Many Are Eligible?

Dutchess County had vaccinated about 1,300 people as of Jan. 20, and Putnam County and Drug World in Cold Spring had vaccinated about 1,100. Here are the estimated numbers of people eligible, based on census and school data.

Because of the limited supply, the only places getting vaccines now are hospitals, local health departments, some pharmacies that signed up in advance, such as Drug World in Cold Spring, and some community health centers such as Cornerstone in Newburgh and Sun River Health in Peekskill. Hospitals are supposed to prioritize health care workers while local health departments focus on essential workers and pharmacies on people 65 or older.

Last week, Cuomo announced that New York’s Am I Eligible website and hotline (833-697-4829) would only book appointments for the state-run mass-vaccination sites, which include the Westchester County Center in White Plains and the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York City. Even residents who manage to book an appointment should expect a wait of 14 weeks or longer for an appointment with the current rate of vaccination distribution, Cuomo said.

vaccination

The Putnam County Department of Health vaccinated 202 essential workers on Thursday (Jan. 21) at the Carmel senior center. From left, Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Nesheiwat, Carmel School District employee Lisa Ferraro, who received a vaccine, and county nurse Felicia Saunders. (Photo provided)

Residents looking for appointments at non-state sites — local health departments, hospitals, pharmacies, urgent care centers, etc. — have to contact those providers directly, he said.

New York residents are allowed to get vaccinated outside of their home counties. As of Thursday afternoon, the state’s Am I Eligible website said appointments were available at two of its clinics: the Field House at SUNY Potsdam in St. Lawrence County and Plattsburgh International Airport in Clinton County. 

In a statement on Wednesday (Jan. 20), Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell noted that the county has more than 30,000 people who are eligible for the vaccine. At the same time, the county Health Department received 200 vaccines last week for essential workers and Drug World received 200 vaccines for seniors. “If you can’t get an appointment for a vaccine, that’s why,” Odell said.

The county Health Department has vaccinated about 1,000 people in five weeks, she said, but, because it is only authorized to vaccinate essential workers, it does not schedule appointments online, she noted.

Where to Check Online

drugworld.com

dutchessny.gov/covidvaccine

putnamcountyny.com/covid-19-vaccine-information

covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov

“We recognize there is concern about the wait for vaccines,” said Dr. Michael Nesheiwat, the Putnam commissioner of health, in a statement. “One thing that is important to realize is this was not completely unexpected. We need to look at vaccine implementation as the long-term project it is — more of a long-distance race and not an all-out sprint. It is an enormous undertaking and not physically possible to roll out large numbers of vaccines in an instant.”

Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro said on Wednesday that Dutchess’ allotment for the week was 600 doses, and that the 600 appointments were booked within “moments” of the announcement they were available.

He noted that residents can subscribe to email updates on appointment availability at dutchessny.gov/covidvaccine. The county has received more than 7,000 calls about vaccinations in the past week. “Please don’t call the health department looking for an appointment,” he said.

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