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Erie County pushing to get more people vaccinated

So far, 49% of people living in Erie County have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — While COVID-19 case numbers are trending down in Erie County, there is a big push to get more people vaccinated as the ages of the people who are getting sick is trending younger.

So far, 49 percent of people who live in Erie County have gotten their first dose, while 37 percent have gotten their second dose.

But the zip codes in the county where there are the most new cases, and the highest rates, are also the zip codes with the lowest vaccination numbers. A lot of those zip codes are either in rural areas of the county or in the City of Buffalo. So, the county is going to rework how its doing vaccination clinics to reach people who need better access to the vaccine.

"The goal is now to really get into neighborhoods where we see problems, where we don't have the vaccination levels where we want them, to work with our partners in those neighborhoods. To get the citizens aware of it, to work with the medical community in those neighborhoods so they can continue to advise their patients that the vaccination clinic will be there for them on that one day. So we are looking at moving it around," said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.

We also asked about how they're going to reach 12 to 15-year-olds when the Pfizer vaccine is available for them. The Erie County Executive says they will work with pediatricians and schools, and just like the 16 and 17-year-olds who can get vaccinated now. Parents need to give permission first.

When you get your first shot, you get your appointment for your second shot before you leave, but we have heard from a few people who, for one reason or another, weren't able to keep that appointment whether it was in another county or at a pharmacy. They told us they have tried going to different places as a walk-in to get their second shot and they say they were turned away. 

We asked Poloncarz about this on Tuesday - what people should do if they want to get their second dose at an Erie County-run clinic. The main thing if you got the first dose somewhere else, is to call ahead so they can make sure you're all set before you show up.

"We are offering second doses to individuals who may have gotten their first doses elsewhere; however, we need to know about them beforehand," Poloncarz said. "So they would call our 858-2929 number. They would give us their information from the other state. We would confirm it, and then we would set up a date for their second dose."

They have to be able to confirm where you got your first dose and make sure they have enough doses set aside. There aren't second dose walk-ins at Erie County-run clinics.

Poloncarz also flat-out said Tuesday that he doesn't think herd immunity is possible here in Erie County or the rest of the country.

It all hinges on enough people getting vaccinated. So far, in Erie County, 49-percent of the population has gotten a first dose of the vaccine. Remember, as of Tuesday, only people 16 and up can get vaccinated. County officials are hoping that more people will get vaccinated so we can reach herd immunity, but they say it isn't looking very likely right now.

"We do not believe we will meet herd immunity in Erie County, New York State, or for that matter, the rest of the country, and it's all in the hands of the public to get vaccinated," Poloncarz said. "If we get vaccinated, we can reduce the further spread of this. As I said, there are people who probably died needlessly in the month of April because they didn't get vaccinated thinking I'm going to be okay. We had the most number of deaths under the age of 50 in any month tying April of 2020, and if those individuals, I assume if most of them had been vaccinated, even if they had caught COVID, they would have had a very, very mild case if they were fully vaccinated."

There are "shot and chaser" clinics coming up where you get a free beer after you get your shot. A third of the spots are filled for Saturday already. More of those clinics will be announced soon.

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