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Erie County: first dose of COVID vaccine given to 86% of eligible nursing homes residents

Overall, the county says 8 percent of its population has received at least the first dose of vaccine, which is greater than the state average of 6.5 percent.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Some 86 percent of eligible nursing home residents have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, Erie County officials said Friday.

Overall, 8 percent of Erie County's population has also gotten the first dose.

Those numbers, according to the county, come from the New York State Department of Health's Vaccine Tracker data, with numbers that were most recently updated Wednesday.

By comparison, New York state as a whole has an average vaccination rate of 6.5 percent.

"This is the second-highest percentage among all NYS regions," the county said in a statement.

2 On Your Side spoke with UB's top infectious disease expert who said he was pleasantly surprised by the data.

"I think this week was the last of our rocky weeks, in terms of unpredictable vaccine supply. We've been promised a 16% increase starting next week for the next three, weeks and that will also allow us to plan," Dr. Thomas Russo said.

This week several Erie County appointments had to be rescheduled due to a lack of vaccine supply. Those appointments are now being rescheduled in February, the county says. 

Dr. Russo believes these types of issues will be avoidable in the future.

"We're really starting to ramp the efficiency, the process to get people vaccinated. ... But I don't think we have any lack of enthusiastic individuals here in Erie County and Wester New York that want to get vaccinated," Dr. Russo said.

Erie County said 34 of its 35 nursing homes have completed clinics for first doses. The one residence that hasn't, Brothers of Mercy Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Clarence, has administered some first-dose vaccine shots but has not completed the process.

Russo believes greater access for the general public should arrive in the coming weeks and months, although he says one area that could be improved before that is the current two systems for signing up.

Currently, primarily online appointments are being made for the county and state run vaccinations, while over-the-phone scheduling is being used for pharmacies and those older than 65.

"It would be nice if we could integrate those systems online with a phone backup for those who don't have internet access," Dr. Russo said.

Erie County says it plans to release this type of information weekly to provide a closer look at vaccination efforts that right now are only highlighted by region on the state dashboard.

We have reached out to the state health department for breakdowns of all eight Western New York counties, hoping to better track distribution in our area.