COVID-19 vaccine: Eligibility far exceeds availability in Finger Lakes region


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Monroe County Executive Adam Bello, Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza joined Genesee & Orleans County Public Health Director Paul Pettit, Dr. Nancy Bennett from the Finger Lake Vaccine Hub, and Wade Norwood from the Finger Lakes COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force for an update Wednesday.

Currently, New York state is progressing through Phase 1a and Phase 1b of the vaccination plan which includes health care workers, nursing home resident and staff, residents 65-years-old or older, residents with pre-existing conditions, and essential workers like educators, firefighters, police, grocery store employees, child care workers, and in-person college instructors.

MORE | Phase 1B vaccination explained: How to book an appointment and what’s the hold-up?

The current pool of New Yorkers eligible to receive the vaccine is approximately seven million people, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Here in the Finger Lakes region, and statewide, eligibility for the vaccine currently far exceeds availability in terms of supply.

“There are a lot of people in our community right now who are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, but the eligibility is far greater than the number of vaccines available,” Bello said. “This can be very frustrating, but we have to take a step back and not confuse the difference between eligibility and availability.”

“The federal government and the manufacturers are managing the supply,” Bello said. “The challenge here is that we don’t know week-to-week how much of that supply is distributed to the state, which is then distributed back down the the local partners. We need to shift our focus here on the local level into what we can control to make sure that our capacity, to actually administer the vaccine once it arrives, meets the supply.”

The governor has said New York state currently receives about 300,000 vaccine doses per week, and that supply is distributed statewide proportionately to a region’s population. At the current rate, the governor estimated a 14-week timeline to complete Phase 1a and Phase 1b of the vaccination plan.

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“So far we received 76,000 doses of the vaccine in the Finger Lakes region,” Dr. Bennett said. “Those 76,000 doses will all be administered into arms by next week and that will be dependent on what the next supply of vaccine brings to us.”

Dr. Bennett and the other health officials on the briefing stressed patience from the community.

“It will not all happen tomorrow,” Dr. Bennett said. “There are a lot of people in the 65 or older age group.”

“Our goal was, and is still, to ensure that whatever vaccine we have available to us in our community will be used quickly, efficiently, and as equitably as possible,” Dr. Mendoza said. “We are administering vaccines as soon as we are getting them.”

“There’s a bottleneck in the system and unfortunately we’re not able to do more without the vaccine,” said Dr. Pettit. “So that is the biggest hurdle for us right now. I would ask our communities for continued patience as this process keeps going.”

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Norwood said the regional vaccine task force continues their work on an educational campaign regarding the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.

“Our job is to make sure that everyone in the community has the opportunity to go through the education and evolution process that I’ve had the opportunity to go through,” Norwood said. “That they’ve had the same access to information so they too can make an informed decision for themselves and their loved ones.”

The county executive said the Dome Arena in Henrietta would be used by the New York State Department of Health as a vaccination facility.

Rochester Regional Health and University of Rochester Medical Center both announced it would begin scheduling vaccination appointments for their patients this week, pending vaccination supply.

MORE | Rochester Regional begins Phase 1b vaccination with drive-thru clinic

News 8 WROC will provide updates to this story as they become available.

Watch the full briefing:

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