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Health departments scale back on mass vaccination sites; Erie County plans 'Drink for a Dose' vaccine initiative

With demand for COVID-19 vaccine a national and local issue, health departments are looking for ways to boost vaccination rates.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — As demand for COVID-19 vaccine plummets, local health departments are scaling back on their vaccination sites – cutting hours, reducing staff and reducing operations.

They're figuring out how best to deliver the vaccine to people, and a new initiative in Erie County will be rolled out to get people vaccinated and offer free beer.

No longer is there a big rush on the COVID-19 vaccine -- once considered a golden ticket, demand for the vaccine has plummeted.

"We’re pivoting we’re changing our strategy," said Niagara County public health director Dan Stapleton.

Local health departments are starting to move away from mass vaccination sites, now in favor of smaller more targeted clinics.

"There’s significant expense to the county," Stapleton said.

We also heard from Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz. 

"It doesn’t make sense for us to have our mass vaccination clinics open on an 8-9 hour basis when only 60 people show for a first dose. So, we’ll be reducing the mass vaccination clinic hours and spreading it out smaller in the community," Poloncarz said.

Health departments plan on doing more pop-up clinics, going to schools and doing clinics for specific industries.

"We’ve been working with the restauranteur industry to say if your employees have not been vaccinated there’s a special pop-up clinic that’s going to be held," Poloncarz said.

And the county will partner with breweries.

"In which we’re going to do shot and a chaser get your shot, get a coupon for a free beer get your chaser and we think it’s going to have a positive impact in the 20-29 category where everybody is eligible but not many of them are getting vaccinated," Poloncarz said.

In Allegany County, the health department plans to scale back operations and move to mobile clinics. In Cattaragus County, Tuesday was the last day at Jamestown Community College in Olean for first doses.

"We just would not need all that space at this particular time going forward until we start to see the interest increase," said Dr. Kevin Watkins, Cattaraugus County public health director. 

Paul Pettit, the public health director in Genesee and Orlean counties says both counties plan to move vaccination efforts back to their health department buildings. 

Health officials continue to urge people who haven’t been vaccinated, to make an appointment to get vaccinated.

The vaccine clinic targeted to the restaurant industry, but open to anyone, will be held at Rich Products on May 1. On May 8, the county will partner with Resurgence Brewing for the 'Drink for a Dose' event.