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Poloncarz: COVID-19 vaccine distribution will take time, depends on NYS supply

Poloncarz says Erie County needs more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from New York State.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — A visibly frustrated Mark Poloncarz is asking Erie County residents for patience as confusion continues over the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine for those in the current eligible 1A and 1B categories.

"We need more doses," the county executive said. "We have the staff identified, we are ready." 

Poloncarz is calling it a supply issue, not a logistics issue. 

"I know people want the vaccine," Poloncarz said. "We want people to understand that we want to deliver the vaccine. We need more doses from New York State. They pledged to us they're gonna give us more doses. We need the federal government to release more doses to the state so we can put more vaccines in the arms of our citizens."

Poloncarz acknowledged Erie County and other counties around the state were 'thrown for a loop' when the state announced last Friday those in 1B, including teachers and those aged 75 and older, would become eligible for the vaccine starting Monday (January 11). The 1B category has now been expanded to include those aged 65 and older and those considered immunocompromised.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Poloncarz said the county has enough doses on hand to vaccinate those with appointments currently scheduled through the end of Wednesday. He said there is a chance, if more doses are not delivered, that appointments for Thursday and Friday may have to be cancelled. Yet, Poloncarz revealed, the state has directed the county to continue to schedule appointments even though the supply to fill those appointments is not guaranteed at this time.

A few hours later Poloncarz tweeted that Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center is transferring doses to the county to fulfil those appointments. According to Poloncarz, the Erie County Department of Health has received 1,200 doses from Roswell Park as well as 4,200 doses from the New York State Department of Health.

Poloncarz says these are enough doses to get the county through all appointments scheduled at the county's point of distribution clinics for the remainder of this week.

Adding to the confusion, the county executive said for a time, the state's website listed the Erie County STD clinic as a vaccination site and the county phone number as a way to make an appointment. Poloncarz said both are incorrect. Appointments can only be made online. 

Poloncarz said people just started showing up Monday at the STD clinic without appointments demanding to be vaccinated. As a result, security has now been added to the current POD (point of distribution) sites. 

All appointments for those in 1B are now full through January 30. Additional appointments for those in 1A are being added for next week and those eligible will be able to sign up through a link on the Erie County Health Department website.

"We want people to understand it's gonna take some time to finish the 1A category and months, New York State has said at least 14 weeks, to get through the 1B category," Poloncarz emphasized."

He also added that the health department is not the only agency giving out vaccines -- mentioning hospitals, federally qualified health centers and soon pharmacies.

Mike Duteau, the president of the Community Pharmacy Association of New York and a member of the governor's Vaccine Distribution and Implementation Task Force appeared in our 2 On Your Side's Town Hall Tuesday to talk about the rollout. 

"Pharmacy is proud to be part of this effort," Duteau said. 

He added, "Pharmacies today across the state especially in Central New York received supply of the vaccine. They're scheduling clinics and doses for tomorrow. So I think you're going to see a lot of movement in community pharmacies starting tomorrow for sure." 

You can watch the full Town Hall segment below: