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NY vaccine eligibility expands, health experts stress vigilance

NYS vaccination eligibility will expand to anyone over the age of 30 starting Tuesday. Health experts are urging people to continue to follow public health measures.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that New Yorkers aged 30 years and older are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

New York State residents aged 16-years and older can begin scheduling appointments to receive the vaccine beginning Tuesday, April 6. 

While health experts say expansion of vaccine eligibility is great news for our community, they are warning that people need to keep their guard up as the vaccination roll out continues.

"My only concern is that people may hear this and think so okay I'm vaccinated, I can't get it and I can't transmit it so why do I need to wear a mask? I would say don't make that leap just yet," said University at Buffalo's Sr. Associate Dean for Health Policy Dr. Nancy Nielsen.

This comes as cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations have been on the rise in Erie County for a couple of weeks. According to New York State Department of Health data, on March 12 the seven day rolling average positivity rate was 1.8 percent. As of March 28, that number went up to 3.8 percent.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz tweeted Monday that 176 people are hospitalized in Erie County, which is an increase of five people from just the day before.

Hospitalizations in the Western New York region which includes, Erie, Niagara, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, and Allegany counties have risen consecutively over the last eight days.

"The cases are going up as you know in New York and New Jersey in particular. We are having a rising number of cases," said Dr. Nielsen. "Luckily not as many people dying or hospitalized because we have some treatments now. But this is not a time to take this lightly or to be cavalier or rip off your mask or burn all your masks, not a good time."

University at Buffalo's Chief of Infectious Disease, Dr. Thomas Russo agrees. He said recent spring break travel and holiday gatherings could be reason for the spike.

"It's possible the bump in cases we've recently seen could be due to ill conceived gatherings from St. Patrick's day, we just had Passover this weekend and Easter weekend is coming up," he said.

"I'm worried about non-essential travel, I'm worried about people just being cavalier assuming well I'm immunized, everybody else is, it's probably safe. Not a good idea," said Dr. Nielsen.

Both Dr. Russo and Dr. Nielsen stress the importance of strictly following public health measures until we have reached full herd immunity.