The Niagara County Department of Health (NCDOH) is preparing to oversee distribution of its portion of the coronavirus vaccine.
Public Health Director Daniel J. Stapleton said his team has long been preparing for emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With emergency preparedness planning, training and exercising every year, the county is well positioned for a quick and vital vaccination campaign as soon as safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine is available,” he said.
A point of dispensing (POD) is a centralized location where local agencies dispense medical countermeasures (such as vaccine administration) to the public during a public health emergency.
Stapleton said, “For the health and safety of staff, volunteers and participants, the open PODs will be drive-thru operations at pre-identified locations within the Niagara County,”
In partnership with local partners – to include Niagara County Office of Emergency Management and the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office – operations will be set up as soon as the vaccine is available.
“There are still a few unknown variables such as the type of vaccine we will receive, how much and when,” Stapleton said. “We are planning for many scenarios, and we are committed to making vaccine available to our residents as soon as possible.”
“The vaccine will provide protection from the disease and a faster return to normalcy for our community that has worked hard to reduce transmission,” he emphasized.
Director of Public Health Planning and Emergency Preparedness Elise Pignatora said, “Staff and volunteers are well trained and practiced in POD operations. We have been planning with local partners for years to ensure our ability to quickly execute large-scale immunization campaigns. The Division of Public Health Emergency Preparedness collaborates with a diverse range of community partners to ensure a robust response to pandemic scenarios. All staff at the NCDOH are trained in the incident command system (ICS) and participate in annual trainings and exercises to prepare the county for rapid emergency response to protect the health and safety of the community. At least once every year, the NCDOH conducts a full-scale POD to demonstrate and test capabilities in communication, asset distribution, cold-chain management, medical screening, vaccination/dispensing, patient record management as well as patient education.”
Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Western New York would receive 14,500 does of the state’s initial supply of 170,000 from Pfizer.
As outlined in New York's vaccination program, high-risk health care workers, nursing home residents and staff are prioritized first to receive the vaccine, followed by other long-term and congregate care staff and residents, and EMS and other health care workers. Essential workers and the general population, starting with those who are at highest risk, will be vaccinated after these initial priority groups.
New York has opted into the federal government's nursing home vaccination program. Under the federal program, employees of CVS and Walgreens will vaccinate residents and staff in these facilities, much like the do for the flu vaccine. New York will issue guidance for hospitals to select which patient-facing staff should be prioritized as "high-risk" in line with state rules.
The NCDOH has launched a COVID-19 vaccination page on its website to keep the community informed of evidence-based vaccine information and the status of open PODs in Niagara County. Individuals who are interested in volunteering to support open PODs (both medical and non-medical volunteers), may find information on the NCDOH COVID-19 website.
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