St. Lawrence County working to get vaccinations out, timeline on phased rollout 'rapidly evolving'
BY ANDY GARDNER
North Country This Week
CANTON — There have been well over 4,000 COVID-19 vaccinations administered in St. Lawrence County, but health and pharmacy officials don’t know when the next shipment will arrive, or how many doses it will contain.
Dr. Dana McGuire, St. Lawrence County public health director, and Dr. Andrew Williams, president of the county health board, discussed the local vaccination program with county legislators during a Monday, Jan. 14 operations committee meeting.Dr. McGuire said there are 4,400 reported vaccinations, but those administered through pharmacies to nursing home residents and staff may not show up in the total right away.
“I think it’s very likely the pharmacy vaccine of the nursing home population, including their staff … would put us at a very high rate of vaccine,” Dr. Williams said. Later in the discussion, he added that St. Lawrence County hospitals and agencies have administered every vaccine that’s been sent here and none was wasted or returned.
The two health officials said there are daily changes to the state-led vaccination program. Right now, we’re in the first phase, which is broken down into three subphases -- 1A, 1B and 1C. Dr. McGuire anticipates it will take 14 weeks from when the first doses were administered in December to reach the third subphase, 1C. That date isn’t set in stone.
“I haven’t heard anything yet on 1C. I heard to do the completion of 1A and 1B, it will take 14 weeks,” she said, adding that there could be overlap between 1A/1B and 1C, but that’s uncertain.
Dr. Williams called the vaccine roll out a “rapidly evolving issue.”
“I think we’re just going to have to keep the communication lines open, make sure the public is informed,” he said. “What we will ensure is any vaccine that comes to SLC that we have anything to do with will be injected into recipients’ arms as quickly as possible.” “I think you should hold us to doing that kind of a job,” he said to the county legislators.
Phase 1A included frontline healthcare workers, nursing home residents and nursing home staff.
A new group now eligible for vaccines in phase 1B is anyone age 75 or older. They will be vaccinated by local pharmacies.
Also now eligible for vaccines under phase 1B are first responders or support staff for first responding agencies, corrections officers, probation departments and those working in juvenile detention or rehab facilities, all pre-k through grade 12 school faculty and staff, contractors working in school districts and group childcare.
Also now eligible for phase 1B vaccinations are in-person college faculty and instructors, employees or support staff in childcare settings, licensed, registered, approved or legally exempt childcare providers, anyone working in public transit, public-facing grocery store workers and anyone living or working in a homeless shelter.
Most of those will be arranged through the employer or union.
Later in the meeting, Legislator Joe Lightfoot, R-Ogdensburg, asked County Administrator Ruth Doyle if the county has found enough volunteers to assist with the vaccination program.
“I would say at this point not yet, but that’s balanced about how much we’ll be getting,” Doyle said.
“So we’ve not been advised on how much vaccination we’ll receive?” Lightfoot said.
“Or when,” Doyle replied.
People can go online to see if they are eligible for vaccination at https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/covid/covid-19-vaccine-eligibility.page
There is also a hotline for New York state residents to schedule vaccination appointments. It’s available 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days per week: 1-833-697-4829
The county needs medical and non-medical volunteers for vaccine administration.
Medical volunteers are needed to assist with pre-vaccination screenings, vaccine administration, and post-vaccination monitoring. Needed volunteers in this category include: registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, licensed physicians, licensed physician assistants, licensed pharmacists, midwives, dentists /dental hygienists, podiatrists, EMS/community paramedicine or nursing students and physician assistant students. Governor’s executive order 202.86, released 12/28, also extends permission to retirees who are medical professionals and still in good standing the ability to volunteer
Non-medical volunteers are needed to assist with operations and activities at the vaccination sites, such as registration and check-in, data entry, greeting and routing participants, traffic flow, and other administrative tasks.
Volunteers will work in collaboration with the St. Lawrence County Public Health Department and the local hospital systems to vaccinate county residents. Those interested in volunteering will register through ServNY.
ServNY is a registry of health care and mental health professionals, as well as community residents, who wish to volunteer during a public health emergency or major disaster.
If interested in registering to be either a medical or non-medical volunteer, contact the St. Lawrence County Public Health Volunteer Coordinator at [email protected] or 315-229-3407 or go to https://www.stlawco.org for information on the process.