Well being officers in western New York are confused in regards to the minor position in COVID vaccination
After months of getting ready for the districts, the state government bypasses them to set up their own system
BUFFALO, NY – Health officials in western New York play an important role in providing COVID vaccinations to residents. It just wasn’t the role they were preparing for.
For months, the local health authorities have optimized the introduction of their individual mass vaccination plans and in some cases practiced. As of September 11th, every county must have a plan to vaccinate large numbers of people in the event of a public health emergency.
“We were ready as soon as the vaccine was ready, but unfortunately that wasn’t the (state) ‘s original plan,” says Dr. Kevin Watkins, director of the Cattaraugus County Health Department.
What the state government did instead when vaccines arrived was to put in place its own nationwide system. Senior state health officials refer to this as a “hub system” with district governments playing a subordinate role.
Initially, hospitals were identified as key players to ensure that health care workers were vaccinated. The pharmacies were assigned to seniors aged 65 and over. The state government monitors operations regionally through its hub and operates pop clinics across the state to ensure poor and minority communities have access to vaccinations.
Counties were chosen to vaccinate essential workers. A recently added assignment is vaccinating people with health problems that make them more susceptible to COVID.
2 On Your Side contacted public health officials in all eight boroughs of western New York. It was unanimous. All said they had confidence that if fully implemented, their mass vaccination plan for the county would have worked.
We are told that the mood is widespread among local health officials from across the state.
Watkins is also the President of the New York State Association of Public Health Officials. He says members of the club have expressed their disappointment and frustration with the state circumventing their vaccination plans.
“We have this final piece of the pandemic planned and while we were ready, we had to get off the bank to vaccinate our community,” Watkins said.
Why did the Cuomo government create a nationwide immunization system and reduce the role of the county health department that planned the work?
Late Tuesday afternoon, senior health officials spoke to 2 On Your Side on condition of anonymity.
Officials said that since the state had previously had success with its regional approach to COVID testing, it was believed that a similar regional approach would work most effectively with the relevant state government.
The importance of counties in the state plan has been emphasized repeatedly and counties are expected to play a bigger role as more vaccines become available.
There was also this from Jack Sterne, a spokesman for Governor Cuomo:
“This is an apples-to-oranges comparison – the supply of COVID vaccines is extremely limited, there are prioritization guidelines, it requires ultra-cold storage, and it’s a two-shot regime so we’re not just relying on earlier ones Planning could leave. The state picked and operationalized key elements of previous plans that made sense here – such as mass vaccination centers used during the first half of the year, targeted distribution to health facilities to support their workforce, and scalable portions of annual flu vaccination efforts like pharmacies fit the unique requirements of COVID. With the extension of the authorization, we have expanded our partners. “