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Health agencies work to keep up with demand for COVID-19 vaccine in WNY

As demand for the COVID vaccine remains high and supply remains low, we're hearing from some health experts on how people can get vaccinated faster.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — 2 On Your Side has heard from a lot of people who are looking to get vaccinated.

We've heard from some health experts tips in how those who are eligible to get the vaccine can possibly get the shot faster.

Our sources on these tips are the pharmacy director at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, Michelle Lewis, and Paul Pettit, the public health director in Genesee and Orleans counties.

As a reminder, those who are eligible to get the vaccine right now need to fall in the Phase 1a or Phase 1b category, which includes health care workers, teachers, transit workers and first responders. It also includes those who are 65 years old or older, or people who are immunocompromised.

Health experts tell us that many county health departments have been inundated with calls and that calling more will likely not help people in getting an appointment.

In fact, Erie County Health is not taking appointments over the phone, people are getting appointments after filling out an online notification form.

Here’s a tip from the public health director in Genesee and Orleans counties.

"There’s no residency requirement when it comes to vaccinations, so I would also encourage folks to look around to surrounding counties. As long as you’re in the eligible group, you can sign up for available slots. I have heard from other people, it’s kind of like the lotto right now," Pettit said. 

Lewis stresses routinely checking for appointments online.

"Hit or miss appointments drop off, get added, so it’s through the state CDMS website that’s what most of the organizations are using, so through that website, that’s where people can make their appointments. And you’ll see the appointments, and you just have to keep coming back and checking it comes and goes," she said.

Genesee and Orleans counties began doing vaccinations last week, more have been done this week, and more are scheduled next week.

You’re also encouraged to check back online routinely to county health departments and see what’s available and New York State’s Vaccination website.

People who are 65 years old and older, they are recommended to check pharmacies, possibly their doctor, or have somebody they trust do this on their behalf if they’re unable. Wegmans and Tops are getting doses of the vaccine, only for this age group.

County health departments and pharmacies continue to try to keep up with demand, as supply of COVID vaccine remains low. 

But efforts are being made to rollout the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine in limited ways. 

"It's kind of like the lotto right now you, sign up and you may be able to get lucky and find a spot," Pettit said.

You've probably heard it before: so many people trying to get the COVID vaccine and there are not enough doses to go around. 

"We are still finishing the 1a's right, if you look at the prioritization groups, the first responders, the front facing medical personnel," Pettit said. 

In Genesee and Orleans counties, more than 50,000 people are currently eligible to get the vaccine. 

But the health department is only getting between 400 and 200 doses per week. State officials have said more supply is needed from the federal government.

"We have set up our clinics for the end of this week and we're going to be out of vaccine at the county level by Friday," Pettit said.

Health officials recommend people who are eligible to get vaccinated and want the shot to check around to other counties and see if they can get an appointment. 

Those who are 65 years old and older are encouraged to check local pharmacies such as Wegmans and Tops to see about availability. 

Still, Genesee County has plans to open a vaccination site at Genesee Community College next Wednesday.

"It's an aggressive timeline, but we are working with emergency management and the health departments in the field likely it is a possibility," said Matt Landers, the Genesee County manager, "we're basically, we're building an airplane as we're flying it."

We've seen other vaccinations sites pop up recently around the area such as at the Transit Drive-In and Niagara Falls High. As a reminder, you have to be registered and be in Phase 1 to be vaccinated there. Erie County continues to not publicly release vaccination site information saying that by doing so would further cause delays.