Our vaccine doses going elsewhere


By Patsy Nicosia

It’s not quite sled dogs from Anchorage to Nome, but you get the idea:
Monday, a Schoharie County Health Department staffer drove a single vial of COVID vaccine in from Amsterdam—part of efforts to scourge up few a doses after winter-storms delayed deliveries and cancelled clinics here Thursday and Friday.
“For those 10 people, that’s huge,” Public Health Director Amy Gildemeister told supervisors Friday after a heated discussion on why so little of the vaccine is available locally.
Balto’s 1925 run with the diphtheria vaccine earned the Husky a statue in New York City’s Central Park and a place in children’s hearts.
Almost 100 years later, Dr. Gildemeister said she and her staff are doing anything they can to get their hands on the vaccine.
Despite a reported 43 percent increase in federal vaccine distribution, Dr. Gildemeister said she’s not seeing it.
Most weeks, her office is getting 100 doses of the Moderna vaccine for essential workers, she said, with the additional 100 doses they’d been getting for those 65 and older now going to Walgreen’s—where registration is a disaster.
“It’s completely inadequate,” she said of the supply. “It doesn’t come close to meeting the demand. We don’t make any appointments till we have the vaccine in hand—but we’re also required to use it within seven days. That means we’re always scrambling.”
Several supervisors spoke to the near-impossibility of seniors signing up for the Walgreen’s slots; many aren’t computer-savvy and the system requires an individual email and phone number for everyone—even couples in the same house—as well as an online Walgreen’s account.
“This is nightmare,” said supervisors’ chair Bill Federice.
“It’s an Achilles Heel and a fatal flaw and I hear it from my state contacts; they don’t even want to know you unless you’re on the computer.”
When the Health Department was still immunizing seniors, Nancy Dingee, head of the Office of the Aging said, they were able to take names and numbers over the phone for reserved slots.
“They are calling us,” she said, so angry and confused that one day, some 400 calls shut down the phone lines.
Even now, Ms. Dingee said, the OFA has a list of 500 people without family or friends who can help them on the computer.
Mr. Federice said he put together a four-page fact sheet that he distributed to seniors in his town; Richmondville Supervisor Dick Lape called on everyone to be a good neighbor and help seniors they know sign up--but that won’t help them with Walgreen’s, Ms. Dingee said.
Still, an angry Mr. Federice, said, vaccines that are intended for Schoharie County are going elsewhere—and he put the blame squarely on Bassett Cooperstown.
Two weeks ago, he said, the county got 100 doses of the COVID vaccine, Walgreen’s got 100 doses, and Bassett 100.
But when Bassett couldn’t find enough 1A—heath care workers—to vaccinate, instead of calling Dr. Gildemeister or the Regional Hub, he said, they signed the reminder over to Fox Hospital and Springbrook, which serves those with developmental disabilities—and which it owns.
“These are the facts,” Mr. Federice said, threatening to go to Governor Andrew Cuomo. “Those vaccines were intended for Schoharie County. They told us they shipped them out because they didn’t know of anyone here. That is bogus.”
That claim is absolutely not true, Dr. Gildemeister said.
“We could have taken them in a minute. I’m scrounging doses from Amsterdam. We would have absolutely been able to use them.”