Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz updated residents on the coronavirus vaccine during a press conference Monday afternoon.
“People are very interested in the vaccine delivery aspect,” he said. “New York state, as we all know, administered the first dose this morning; and they are delivering, as we speak, vaccine doses to all of New York state’s regions. Based on information I've received, initial doses should be received today or tomorrow. And they're being received in hospital systems – they're not being delivered to the county. They will be provided to health care workers – or ‘health care heroes’ – as the first dose was today for a worker at the Northwell Hospital System in Long Island.
“I want people to understand that it's going to be quite some time before we have vaccine doses that are available to the general public. But these doses are and should be delivered across New York state today. I am anticipating they're being received today, and possibly even doses administered today, in our region. I just can't tell you where, because we don't know exactly how much is going to every hospital system, and who's going to get it first; those decisions are being made by hospital systems. I would assume those that are in COVID-19 wards would get it, and emergency departments and the like. But those first doses should be arriving today or at the latest tomorrow, and will be administered by the hospital systems – not Erie County.”
Poloncarz said distribution sites are not yet ready to be announced. Specialty cooling mechanisms are required to be in place, as the vaccine must be stored at minus-70 degrees Celsius.
“We’re waiting till we get to a point where we feel it's appropriate,” he explained, and noted the county doesn’t want an influx of people to arrive and try to claim a vaccination.
Poloncarz reiterated another half-dozen times that the vaccine will not be readily available to the general public “for months.”
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.
As of Sunday, Erie County had 388 new positive coronavirus cases, and a yearly total of 32,953 confirmed COVID-19 samples (including 703 on Grand Island and 12,610 in the City of Buffalo). Sunday’s positivity rate was 6.1%, with 6,383 individuals tested. The seven-day rolling average is 6.4%.
To date, 858,558 people have been tested (3.8% positive), with 925 deaths attributed to the coronavirus. Also, 93,865 people have taken an antibody test (7.6% positive).
Erie County Medical Center Corp. issued the following statement regarding COVID-19 vaccination:
“As has been reported, vaccines will be available for ECMC caregivers in the coming weeks. We have been working over the past several weeks to prepare for this and we have established a vaccine task force that will oversee and coordinate the process of providing the vaccine to every member of our ECMC family. The priority of staff will follow very prescriptive guidelines provided by the NYS DOH. Our frontline workers have been there for us and we are thrilled we all can be there for them – providing this vaccine, so they can continue their lifesaving work with added protection.”