GOP Monroe County legislators call for local-level control of COVID-19 vaccine distribution


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — President of the Legislature, Dr. Joe Carbone, Legislator Paul Dondorfer and Republican Majority Leader Steve Brew held a press conference Tuesday to call on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to transfer vaccine distribution responsibilities to counties and their local health departments.

“Immunization efforts have traditionally been led by the Public Health Department as they have the knowledge and resources to implement productive plans for vaccine distribution. Currently, New York State is facing great mismanagement and confusion in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout,” GOP officials said in a Tuesday morning press release.

“This mismanagement and confusion includes reports of miscommunication between state and vaccine distribution locations, scheduling hotline confusion and vaccination sites scheduling appointments when there are no vaccinations on hand.”

In the release officials say vaccine distribution has historically been handled by county health departments throughout the state, including vaccinations for measles, whooping cough, mumps, meningitis and other infectious diseases.

Monroe County Executive released a statement Tuesday about the GOP request:

“I’m grateful for the confidence that the Republican Legislators have in my administration and the Department of Public Health to successfully administer the COVID-19 vaccine, but the simple truth is that there is not enough vaccine to increase output at this time. This is an issue we’re seeing throughout the country, not just here in Monroe County or New York State, and we will continue to see it until the federal government and manufacturers are able to increase production of vaccine.

Monroe County’s efforts and collaborations with New York State and the regional hub have been successful – we are in a position each week to administer every drop of vaccine we received and have developed a process to ensure essential workers who are eligible in Phases 1A and 1B continue to be vaccinated at our POD locations.  Monroe County and the Department of Public Health are fully committed and ready to expand our capacity as soon as availability of the vaccine from the federal government allows.”

The New York State Department of Health’s phase vaccine distribution plan falls in line with CDC’s current guidance. Eligible populations are based on priority, and allocations are distributed proportionately by regional population throughout New York.

Health care workers are part of Phase 1a of the vaccination priority, along with nursing home residents and staff (although that population is vaccinated through a federal program). Combined with Phase 1b, which includes some essential workers, and residents who are 65-years-old and up, there are approximately 7 million New Yorkers eligible for the vaccine, including those who have already received at least one dose.

Given the current supply issues, it would take months to vaccinate the currently eligible groups at the current rate.

The Republican Majority also renewed its call to allow visitation of an essential caregiver to those in long-term care facilities. The call was announced in December, and officials are again insisting that state and local administrations work to carry out this change.

In his briefing on Monday, the governor said there are 1.3 million eligible health care workers yet to be vaccinated, 1.7 million from essential workers, and 3.2 million in the 65+ population. He added that the vaccine allocations will be distributed proportionately between those groups.

The vaccination supply, which comes from the federal government, has been slow to increase, but President Joe Biden has expressed commitment to the 100 million doses in a 100 days campaign — a campaign which one local doctor says is possible.

Check back with News 8 WROC as we’ll continue to update this developing story.

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