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Erie County hopes to use Buffalo Niagara Convention Center as mass vaccination site

Mark Poloncarz wants to set up a mass vaccination site at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center, working in conjunction with the state and the National Guard.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — According to the Erie County Department of Health, data up to Feb. 11 indicates nearly 95,000 Erie County residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

With a lot of work still to be done, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz announced a plan in the works that, if it happens, could make a big difference.

In a regular COVID-19 briefing on Tuesday, Poloncarz explained he wants to set up a mass vaccination site at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center, working in conjunction with the state and the National Guard. 

"The reason it hasn't been opened yet is because we don't have the vaccines to do it," said Poloncarz. 

Poloncarz said the site would be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and they'd be able to administer 3,000 or more doses a day.

However, right now there are serious supply concerns

Poloncarz said last week Erie County as a whole was sent around 8,000 doses. He's optimistic that could change. 

"The conversation that the governor had with myself and other county executives today [Tuesday] is 'I know you're preparing for it.' Based on what the president told him yesterday, you should start anticipating this maybe not next week, maybe not the week after that, but possibly by the middle of March, possibly by the first week in April which means we need to get our ducks in a row and that's what we're doing," said Poloncarz.

Poloncarz was asked why the convention center over other venues like Bills Stadium, for example, with ample space.

He explained the primary reason is they're trying to avoid drive-through clinics because of the cold.

"It doesn't make sense to utilize an outdoor facility at a time when we could still have very cold temperatures. What's happening at a lot of those places that had drive-through facilities, they had to shut down not because of power issues but because of cold issues," Poloncarz said.

He added, "In June would it make sense to potentially use the football field and the parking lots? Yes, it would. But for March and April, it doesn't."

As for the cost of operating a site like this at the convention center, Poloncarz estimates about $10,000 per week. The county executive admits there are still some logistics to be worked out. He said this isn't something that will happen immediately but he hopes it could become a reality within a month.