Putnam Debuts Vaccine Clinics for Seniors

Dutchess planning pop-up site in Beacon

Putnam County held its first seniors-only COVID-19 vaccination clinics this week and Dutchess announced its largest-ever allocation of doses and an effort to organize a pop-up site in Beacon within the next two weeks. 

Clinics scheduled for Thursday (March 4) and today (March 5) in Brewster were the Putnam County Department of Health’s first for the 17,700 residents who are 65 and older since the state announced last week a collaboration with health departments to schedule clinics for seniors. The county said that 800 seniors will receive their first doses during the two days. 

Before the announcement, health departments were told to prioritize essential workers, group-home residents, the disabled and seniors with certain medical conditions that make them vulnerable to becoming seriously ill. 

Other seniors had to book their own appointments at pharmacies or the state’s mass-vaccination sites — just one of which is located in the Mid-Hudson Region, at the Westchester County Center in White Plains. 

On Monday, Putnam announced that it was told it would receive 1,170 of 3,000 doses it had requested for residents 65 and older. While Putnam hoped for more, the allocation represented a “big increase over the amount we had been getting,” County Executive MaryEllen Odell said. “We are so glad the state made this important change.”

Dutchess received 4,040 Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccine doses this week, including 500 designated solely for seniors 65 and older, who account for about 53,000 of the county’s residents. It was the county’s largest weekly allocation to date. Dutchess is also expecting 800 doses of the vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson, which last week received emergency use authorization from the federal government. 

CareMount Medical, Premier Medical Group and Sun River Health Care are receiving doses from Dutchess to administer shots to their patients who are homebound seniors or who have underlying medical conditions, County Executive Marc Molinaro said on Wednesday. 

The county is also planning a clinic at a retirement community in Rhinebeck next week and is trying to organize pop-up clinics in Beacon, East Fishkill and Millerton, said Molinaro, although those may not be exclusively for seniors. The state is launching a clinic at Marist College today that will operate through Wednesday. 

“Most of the pop-up clinics are going to be [administering] Johnson & Johnson doses,” because of the difficulty of scheduling a second one for booster shots, said Molinaro. “We’ve been preparing for this,” he said. 

So have seniors. 

People 60 or older account for more than 70 percent of the state’s 38,660 deaths attributed to complications of COVID-19, a fact that has compelled many older residents to shelter at home, isolated from family, friends and social activities. 

Although the state expanded vaccine eligibility to residents 65 and older in January, many of the 3.3 million people in that age range have been left to compete with other eligible groups for available slots, a challenge aggravated by a shortage of doses and the difficulty of monitoring multiple websites and social media pages to sign up. 

Last week, the Town of Philipstown announced that members of the Class of 2021 at Haldane High School would help seniors book appointments online. In addition, Dutchess County allows residents who register online to be notified when appointments become available. 

“Individuals 65 and older are randomly pulled from the notification list and we contact them about scheduling an appointment, either by phone or email,” said Colleen Pillus, the county’s spokesperson. 

State Sen. Sue Serino, whose district includes the Highlands, and Assembly Member Jonathan Jacobson, whose district includes Beacon, both cited the difficulty seniors are having in a letter sent on Tuesday urging the state to create its own notification system and establish a mass-vaccination site at the former JCPenney space at Poughkeepsie Galleria. The Dutchess health department uses the space for its clinics.

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