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Roswell Park helps get COVID vaccine doses to WNY providers

When several Western New York health care providers were in need of doses of the vaccine, a series of operational moves went into effect to get the doses out.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Despite problems in getting new doses of COVID vaccine to people who want it, 2 On Your Side is learning more about the efforts in Western New York to get people vaccinated.

Jericho Road on Buffalo's East Side, Urban Family Practice on the city's West Side, Niagara Falls Memorial, the Erie County Health Department, they were all in need of the COVID vaccine within the past couple of weeks.

In comes Roswell Park.

"We receive a call, it's all run through the vaccine hub, they're saying ok Niagara falls is in need of vaccine, we need to take some of our community supply provide it to Niagara Falls," said Shirley Johnson, the clinical operations officer at Roswell. 

Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center is a state-approved vaccine administration site.

From Roswell's years of cancer research and treatment, it has the necessary freezers to store the vaccine and get it out.

"Everyday, every hospital, every location that has received vaccine, we identify to the Department of Health and to the vaccine hub how much of our community supply we have available, and they look and understand where there are vaccine clinics being held and will look to have vaccine doses moved around," Johnson said.

Vaccine was moved to Niagara Falls this week to get many in Phase 1 vaccinated. Phase 1 includes first responders, teachers and transit workers.    

"Get the shots in the arms, that's the goal. The longer they sit in that fridge or freezer, that's one more person who could end up getting COVID," said Michelle Lewis, the pharmacy director at Niagara Falls Memorial.

But with doses of the vaccine in short supply, there is some uncertainty as to when or if more community supply doses will arrive.

"We've only had one allocation of vaccine for that purpose, so I really don't know if we'll receive another dose or another order or not," Johnson said.

Roswell Park says about 90 percent of their workers have been vaccinated, with half their workers already getting their second dose. The inventory for community supply is kept separate from the supply for health care workers. 

"There was concern early on that there would be more declinations within health care workers and we’re just really not finding that to be true," Johnson said. "I think with the COVID vaccine, it's been I'm not not going to take it I'm just waiting I might have a health condition, I just want to wait and see what that might look like."