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New York lawmakers say they are pressing for upgrades in state vaccine program

State Senator Sean Ryan, who is a Democrat from Buffalo, describes the current distribution process as "clunky" and "disjointed."

BUFFALO, N.Y. — As local governments wait for New York State to distribute more COVID-19 vaccines, the state is in turn pointing its finger at the federal government for errors and shortages when it comes to distribution. 

But as we wait for some kind of answer why isn't more being done on the state level to fix things?

2 On Your Side is asking state lawmakers what they can do.

State Senator Sean Ryan, who is a Democrat from Buffalo, says "It's clunky, it is disjointed."

While State Senator Ed Rath III, who is a freshman Republican lawmaker from Williamsville, says, "There's a level of frustration with the lack of communication from New York State - the lack of coordination from New York State."

These two state senators from Western New York along with Ranking Minority Republican Member Senator Patrick Gallivan from Elma have seats on the State Senate's Health Committee. They say your calls and complaints about the state's vaccination appointment registration website and the overall distribution effort are getting to Albany officials. They were on a conference call a week or so ago with State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. 

We asked, "Do you feel that Dr. Zucker got the message that the current system is not working?"

Ryan replied, "Let me say this... Dr. Zucker got the message. It wasn't a pleasant phone call." 

He added, "If we want to keep people's confidence in government up we have to deliver a better product."

Senator Rath says the state jumped the gun by opening up too fast vaccine eligibility to the much larger 1-B population of essential workers and left counties with the distribution headache. He described it as, "Poorly managed and I think in many ways a false level of expectation."

Rath says he also spoke in roundtable discussions with many county and local government officials. He points out, "Some of these rural counties are even concerned that the state may come back and potentially confiscate their vaccines. So they have been trying to very quickly vaccinate as many residents as they can."

Ryan says many of his constituents are not pleased to hear that while they successfully register for an appointment now they may not get the actual shot until sometime in March or April. 

Then of course Ryan traces the supply issue back to Washington. 

"Hopefully with the Biden Administration working with the private providers and hopefully using the Defense Procurement Act we can get a 'giddyup' on the vaccine production," he said.

There is also hope that other vaccines will come on line to increase supply. But it all remains to be seen.

Rath says there is enough blame to go around at the federal and state levels, but feels officials will eventually work out and solve the problems in the supply and distribution system.  

But in the meantime Rath stresses, "I want residents to know and be assured that we're doing everything here in Albany to start getting this right. To make sure that number one - the pressure is put on the federal government as well as the state government."