Ulster County will get fewer vaccines this week than it did last week, and all the appointments at the county-run Covid-19 vaccination site at Kingston High School are spoken for, said County Executive Pat Ryan earlier today.
Calling the vaccine rollout “frustratingly slow,” Ryan said the federal government was at fault for not distributing vaccines faster.
“We need more vaccines, we need them now,” he said. “The only entity capable of upping this is the federal government. That’s where we need to push.”
Ryan said Ulster is expecting to receive 1000 doses on Wednesday and will likely use them all up the following day. The county received 1200 doses last week. Overall, New York State also received fewer doses this week than last, dropping from 300,000 to 250,000.
Last week, the county opened two vaccine hubs. The main one at the Kate Walton Field House at Kingston High School is capable of delivering 45,000 vaccinations per month, and another at the Ellenville Regional Hospital can deliver 5,000 per month. Presently, no vaccinations are happening at either site because the supply was exhausted before the weekend. Prior to that, a total of 1,920 have been vaccinated at the county site. From mid-December until last week, 4,300 vaccinations had been received and administered by the county.
To get an appointment at the county-run site, visit covid19.ulstercountyny.gov/vaccination-assessment/ to provide information on eligibility and the county will contact you when you’re eligible and vaccines are available. So far, over 20,000 have signed up for this notification.
Appointment requests began flooding in last week as eligibility was extended to individuals 65 and older, as well as a larger group of essential workers, part of group 1b in New York State’s vaccine rollout plan. Ryan said about 60,000 to 70,000 residents are eligible to receive the vaccine.
In addition to the county- and state-run sites, vaccines are also being administered at pharmacies, nursing homes, hospitals and doctors’ offices. The different types of sites are supposed to prioritize different groups of residents; hospitals on their doctors and nurses, health departments on essential workers in group 1b, and pharmacies and private doctor networks on residents 65-plus.
Ulster County Deputy County Executive Dan Torres said that the vaccinations given at the county-run site last week were to “a mix of individuals who qualified in the phase 1a and 1b.”
“We opened our portal online and accepted appointments until we filled up,” said Torres.
Torres reported that there have been no serious side effects from anyone who received the vaccine in Ulster County and there have also been no vaccine doses discarded due to spoiling or lack of finding people who want to be vaccinated.
“Even when those didn’t show up for appointments, we were reaching out to say ‘hey, can you get over here,’” said Ryan. “We want to make sure we’re using every single dose that we’re getting. We will continue to be relentless in pushing for that.”
‘Learning as we go’
The process of getting an appointment varies by location. The Institute for Family Health, with locations in Kingston, New Paltz and Ellenville, is offering its patients online scheduling, however it is already booked until February. Dr. Wesley Ho, the medical director of the Kingston location, said the institute has also reached out to residents who might not have internet access about scheduling an appointment.
Ho said his office vaccinated over 700 people last week and are waiting for another shipment. He said the institute has been focusing on ensuring residents in the 1a group has been vaccinated before moving onto 1b.
“I personally call the smaller pharmacies to make sure they are aware we can immunize their staff,” said Ho. “We have [vaccinated] teachers, partnered with sheriff’s departments and anyone 65 or above who are our patients.”
Ho said the institute plans to open up appointments to those who are eligible but not patients in the future.
“We’re learning as we go,” said Ho about the vaccination distribution. “I think we have a pretty good system. We’re also still providing daily medical care for patients and [doing] Covid testing. So we still have to handle those daily medical appointments.”
Right now, he said the main struggle is with staffing and the institute is looking for volunteers who can help with the vaccination distribution process.
WMCHealth, parent company of HealthAlliance Hospital in Kingston, is also offering vaccinations, which it says can be scheduled through the New York State scheduling system.
“We are moving through the priority Phase 1A and 1B groups, and to date have vaccinated thousands of people across the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth), which includes HealthAlliance Hospital,” said WMCHealth in a statement. “As the leader for the regional Hudson Valley Hub, WMCHealth has also coordinated tens of thousands of vaccinations throughout the region under state guidelines in a safe and expedient manner.”
The other major hospital group in our region, Nuvance, states on its website that due to limited supply it’s focusing on vaccinating healthcare workers only and is not scheduling appointments at this time. Instead, it says it will contact persons who are eligible.
The closest New York State-operated vaccination locations are at SUNY Albany and Westchester County Center. For the state-run locations, you can schedule an appointment at am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/. Like the other scheduling systems, it is difficult to find an open appointment.
To read about how one local pharmacist is going about administering vaccinations in Woodstock, see our article on Village Apothecary by Nick Henderson.
High demand for appointments
Speaking with local residents, it seems the scattershot approach – relying in some cases on patients to make appointments themselves, while others are contacted directly – has resulted in inconsistent results. With no single agency to sort people by priority level, whether or not one can get an appointment seems largely a matter of luck.
“I’m a 15-year post liver-transplant and my immune system has been suppressed for those 15 years two times a day,” said New Paltz resident Butch Dener, who said that despite being high-risk, he has not been able to secure an appointment. “I am 70 years old and two years post-heart attack. My wife has been on every site from Jones Beach, the Javits Center up to Albany. Nothing, nada.”
Dener’s not alone. Sarah Margaret said she’s 72 and hasn’t been able to get an appointment either. She doesn’t “realistically expect to be vaccinated until April or May.”
On the other side, Ulster resident Jannette Carcich, 70, said that her primary care provider texted her on Tuesday night to go to its website and sign up. She was able to get an appointment and received her first dose of the Moderna vaccine last week at her doctor’s office.
Similarly, Colleen Hotaling Dunham, who works in the Saugerties School District, was able to get vaccinated after being prompted to sign up.
“I signed up as soon as I received the link last weekend [emailed by the school district] and received my first dose of the Moderna vaccine this past Thursday at the Kate Walton Field House,” said Hotaling Dunham. “The process took about half an hour. It was well organized.”
Ryan’s advise for residents anxious to get vaccinated: be patient.
“Everyone is doing their best with the limited supply and we’re going to need to continue to have patience and we will communicate with you all throughout this process,” he said last week. “I am optimistic that the speed and the pace pick up as the supply chain gets better at the national level. Right now, we can only commit to distributing to what we know we are going to get in the spirit of setting those expectations.”
More information on the Covid-19 vaccination distribution can be found at covid19.ulstercountyny.gov/vaccine-resource-center. The Ulster County Covid-19 hotline number is 845-443-8888 and the state number is 888-364-3065. Seniors who need help with vaccine resources or don’t have access to a computer are advised to call the Ulster County Office for the Aging at 845-340-3456.
Updated Covid-19 numbers for Ulster
As of Tuesday, January 19, Ulster County has:
- 2352 active cases
- 8375 cumulative cases
- 177 fatalities
- 6.76% positive rate in testing (four-day average)
- 37 hospitalized