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COVID-19 vaccine demand increasing as supply issues continue

On Feb. 15, people with select comorbidities and underlying conditions will be eligible for the vaccine in New York State, but appointments are in high demand.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — On Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said about 10 percent of all New Yorkers have received one dose of the COVID vaccine.

On February 15, people with select comorbidities and underlying conditions will be eligible for the vaccine in New York State. More information about that announcement can be found here

However, that doesn't necessarily mean they'll be able to get an appointment right away.

"My guestimate is that well over half of the entire population of New York State will meet eligibility criteria," said Dr. Thomas Russo, an infectious disease expert at the University at Buffalo. "In the short term, this will be problematic. Supply is going to improve but it will take some time. And I suspect that when people are able to sign up on February 15, that there's going to be some frustration when the sites are overwhelmed or appointments aren't readily available." 

We reached out to a few local health departments in Western New York to ask when people with these comorbidities and underlying conditions will realistically be able to get an appointment/the vaccine.

Christine Schuyler, the Chautauqua County public health director said via email, "The vaccine supply is insufficient to vaccinate all of those eligible and assigned to local health departments. We need to decide how to sub-prioritize and look to the CDC’s recommendations for assistance. Our intent is to ensure equitable access to vaccination amongst people at highest risk for severe disease.  It is my hope that vaccine allocations will increase and these folks will be integrated into our current point of dispensing clinics."

Tyler Shaw, the Allegany County public health director, told 2 on Your Side based on the current allocations they have been receiving per week it would likely take a few months to make a dent in the Phase 1B population.  

He added, "Last week our vaccine appointments booked in under 10 seconds as we have a very high demand for vaccine in Allegany County. Specifically, for the underlying medical conditions and when they can anticipate to become vaccinated, it is very difficult to come up with a specific timeline as things change so rapidly."

These sentiments are shared by many health leaders across the region and New York as a whole. More info here

On a call with reporters Tuesday, Gov. Cuomo said, "You now have about 10 million New Yorkers waiting on 300,000 doses." 

He added, "The supply will really only increase when and if Johnson and Johnson is approved." 

Russo said that could potentially happen at end of March or April. In the meantime, Pfizer and Moderna are working to increase production. 

"So hopefully that will translate to the promised doses arriving here in Western New York and New York State sooner than what was originally planned," Russo said.

Russo told 2 On Your Side at this point it will likely be late spring or early summer before everyone is able to get a vaccine. He stressed the importance of following public health guidelines and doing your part to stop the spread of COVID-19.