By Connor Linskey
The much sought after COVID-19 vaccine is in short supply and only select groups of New Yorkers can get it.
The state is currently administering vaccines to eligible residents in Phase 1a and 1b. This includes high-risk healthcare workers, residents and staff at nursing homes, individuals age 65 or older, police and investigators in addition to school teachers and college professors.
The Ulster County Department of Health opened its first point of dispensing for the COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 11 at the Kate Walton Field House on the Kingston High School campus. This facility will operate seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. by appointment only as the vaccine is available.
Ulster County has the capacity to distribute up to 50,000 vaccines a month. However, due to a severe shortage of supply from the federal government, the county has far fewer doses than anticipated.
“The high level takeaway remains the same,” said Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan during his COVID-19 briefing on Jan. 28. “We still very much need more vaccines in Ulster County. We need them urgently.”
Last week, the state gave the county 1,500 vaccines. 700 were administered to seniors, 400 for healthcare workers and 400 for people in Phase 1b. There are currently no appointments available for the Ulster County vaccination site at Kingston High School. County residents can sign up for the vaccine notification list at https://covid19.ulstercountyny.gov/vaccine-resource-center/. They will be informed when an appointment opens up, at which time they will receive a link to book it. The site also allows residents to check to see if they are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine at this time.
As of Tuesday, Ryan had not announced how many vaccines would be available. However, he was optimistic that the county would receive more vaccines than in previous weeks.
“Based on very encouraging action from the federal government and from President Biden, we can now pretty reliably expect in New York State a 16-17 percent increase over what we currently had over the last few weeks in vaccine allocations,” he said. “Equally as important that number will be pretty much guaranteed three weeks out, finally giving us the ability to have some longer term view and predictability to start to book things out further.”
Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus was also frustrated by the lack of vaccines throughout the state.
“I just spoke to a number of county executives around the state as well as a lot of the hospitals and healthcare providers in Orange County,” he said at his COVID-19 briefing on Monday. “It’s frustrating, the supplies are just not there.”
On Monday, Neuhaus announced that 12,000 people were signed up to receive the vaccine. Approximately half are over the age of 65 and ⅓ are essential workers, such as grocery employees and hospital workers. The county received only 1,100 vaccines on Jan. 28.
During his press briefing Monday, Neuhaus described the vaccine distribution as a CIA operation.
“The way that the vaccine distribution process is working is literally like a CIA operation,” he said. “I asked today why we can’t find out how much each one of the pharmacies is getting.”
Residents can make appointments at Garnet Health Medical Center in Middletown, St. Anthony Community Hospital in Warwick, Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital in Newburgh and Bon Secours Community Hospital in Port Jervis.
Neuhaus assured Orange County residents that all those who signed up will receive the vaccine. He was excited that the state would receive a 16-17 percent raise in weekly vaccines.
“I’ll get to you,” he told residents during his COVID-19 briefing on Friday.