COVID vaccines: We wait and wait and wait


By Patsy Nicosia

The lack of available COVID vaccine continues to plague New York State and Schoharie County as spots for shots fill up within minutes of becoming available and doses intended for local clinics get diverted somewhere else.
According to state figures, as of Monday, 11.5 percent—or 3,591 people—of those eligible in Schoharie County had received at least one shot and 1,956 had been vaccinated with both.
Statewide, the figures are better—though not by much: 14.8 percent of those eligible had received a single dose and 8.1 percent had received both.
Not unexpectedly, registration for the first local clinic for those with qualifying medical conditions filled up within minutes Monday.
After plans for mass vaccinations at Cobleskill-Richmondville High School Sunday were cancelled—and the vaccines distributed elsewhere--nearly as soon as the site had been confirmed mid-week, State Senator Peter Oberacker raised the issue with State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker on the lack of rural vaccine sites.
“We are one state—I have heard that throughout the pandemic from the Governor,” Senator Oberacker said, in a Joint Legislative public hearing on the Governor’s proposed budget held last Wednesday.
“The rural region I represent was forced to shut down—even when most counties had an extremely low number of cases—if any.
“Now, with the vaccine being distributed, my district is completely forgotten. What am I supposed to tell my constituents?”
He should tell them, Commissioner Zucker said, that so far the focus has been on the elderly and rural areas present difficulties.
And things will get better.
“I know we are working with the communities on this and let’s see where we are after the end of this weekend when more vaccines are out there,” Commissioner Zucker said.
But so far, there has been nothing more from the state.
Senator Oberacker, a Republican, is a member of the Senate Health Committee.
While he told Commissioner Zucker he understands the challenges, he said it’s time for action.
“Our county Health Departments along with fire and EMS, stand ready to assist with vaccine distribution,” he said.
Friday, Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state will partner with local Health Departments and more pop-up sites as the allocations expand, but the devil is in the details.
Saturday, the Cobleskill Walgreen’s and Rite Aid Pharmacies unexpectedly got vaccines for those 65 and older—but didn’t publicize them; many seniors who showed up said they’d only heard about it from family or friends.
Congressman Antonio Delgado and Schoharie County Public Health Commissioner Amy Gildemeister also fielded complaints about vaccine distribution at the Congressman’s online Town Hall last Wednesday.
“We need more supply,” Congressman Delgado said. “Demand outpaces supply. I’ve been trying to get state vaccination sites in our rural areas, but it does boil down to our limited supply.”
Requiring people to sign up for clinics online is a state decision--not a county one—Dr. Gildemeister said and a real barrier when people don’t have reliable computers or internet.
There’s such a demand, she said, that “We could easily do 1,000 [vaccinations] in a day,” but on a good week, the county gets just 400 doses—to be shared between pharmacies, the hospital, and the Health Department.
As of Tuesday, there had been 1,210 cases of COVID in the county and 12 deaths.