Putnam County Receives 400 COVID-19 Vaccines Despite Over 30,000 Eligible Residents

Michael Nesheiwat, MD, Putnam County Commissioner of Health administers a Moderna COVID-19 vaccination
Michael Nesheiwat, MD, Putnam County Commissioner of Health administers a Moderna COVID-19 vaccination to Kathy Percacciolo, PCDOH Supervising Public Health Nurse at the Carmel Friendship Center on Thursday Jan. 7. Photo Courtesy of Putnam County.

Nearly a week after Putnam County used up its supply of COVID vaccines, the area was only given 400 new shots to immunize over 30,700 eligible residents.

With New York grappling with the shortage of vaccines from the federal government, Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell said the state only allocated 200 vaccines to the Department of Health to inoculate essential workers. Another 200 was sent to a Cold Spring pharmacy to administer to senior citizens.

“If you can’t get an appointment for a vaccine, that’s why,” Odell said. “We are working with the state to try and get more vaccines.”

Odell stressed that it should be easier and faster for the county’s most vulnerable residents to access the serum. But this problem is not limited to Putnam County.

Across the state, facilities have been set up to distribute the immunization but demand still far outstrips supply. Currently, more than seven million New Yorkers are eligible to receive the vaccine, but the state only receives 300,000 doses a week from the federal government.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo noted on Monday that the federal government has only supplied New York with about 250,000 vaccines each of the last three weeks. At this rate, he said, it will take about seven months to inoculate all current eligible recipients.

“The federal government is in control of the supply, and they must increase the supply,” Cuomo said on Monday. “As a state, we’re trying to do everything that we can.”

As a phased approach, health care workers were the first to receive the vaccine. Last week, police, firefighters, other public safety workers, educators, transit workers and people 65 and up became eligible.

But this shortage is resulting in counties receiving fewer doses than what the demand warrants.

Odell said Putnam has almost 18,000 residents aged 65 and older, an estimated 2,600 residents who are law enforcement, firefighters or first responders, about 6,200 that work in education, and approximately 3,900 healthcare workers.

Currently, there are four locations for residents to receive the vaccine.

The Department of Health has opened clinics at the Philipstown Recreation Center and the Carmel Friendship Center for eligible essential workers. According to the county, health officials have inoculated nearly 1,000 people in the five weeks since the vaccines were made available.

With the health department tasked by the state with vaccinating only a very narrow group of essential workers, appointments are not scheduled online. Instead, the appointments are distributed equally among organizations whose members the department is required to vaccinate, officials said.

 “We are just trying to be fair and work within the guidelines the state has given us,” said Kathy Percacciolo, PCDOH Supervising Public Health Nurse. “We are very experienced at organizing and operating mass vaccination PODs, and we hope the state will allow us to vaccinate more of our residents when supplies increase.”

The Putnam County Hospital Center also has vaccines available but can only immunize health professionals, while Drug World in Cold Spring is restricted to senior citizen vaccinations only.

Drug World was selected by the state to run COVID clinics for those aged 65 and older, with the pharmacy vaccinating 140 seniors last week at The Episcopal Church of St. Mary-in-the-Highlands, also in Cold Spring, officials said. The pharmacy is expected to hold vaccination clinics regularly as supply allows.

To check for an appointment, visit https://www.drugworld.com/

Despite the shortage and limitations, officials say it’s still worth checking the health department’s website regularly in case it is given the flexibility to vaccinate a broader scope of residents in the future.  https://www.putnamcountyny.com/health/

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