As interest in COVID-19 vaccine dwindles, counties scramble to fill shot appointments

Local

CAPITAL REGION, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Counties big and small, rural and metropolitan say they’re all struggling to fill COVID-19 vaccine appointments, even though supply is now up. However, local leaders say that’s almost to be expected.

“In any major vaccine event, there’s ten to maybe 25 percent of people that are just gonna go and they’ve gotta have it, and that created incredible demand with not a lot of supply in the beginning,” explains Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin. “Once you get past that first wave of folks, then you get into the folks that are more laid-back about it and they’ll get the shot when they feel like getting the shot.”

“I think some of the fear and the urgency has died down a bit, and now the travel restrictions are lifted, the weather is getting nicer, overall positivity rates are down as well, so now it comes down to reaching those who were maybe not as eager or people who were hesitant to get the vaccine,” says Fulton County Administrative Officer Jon Stead.

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Larger counties, even those with rural areas like Schenectady and Rensselaer, say they’ve never ended a day with extra doses — though it took some serious legwork finding willing locals.

“We’ve never, ever had an instance where we don’t use every bit of our allotment. That being said, there have been weeks where we’re really scrambling to call and find people to fill appointments,” McLaughlin explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton. “I don’t have the time to have five or six of my people on the phone for 45 hours a day each and that’s what we were running into.”

“The nice thing is we’ve been able to then allocate more doses from another pod where we might not have the scene the same interest to where there is, so we can sort of shift things around,” says Schenectady County Interim Public Health Director Keith Brown.

McLaughlin says the vaccine pod at Hudson Valley Community College will be open late Thursday to reach more people and the younger population. An Albany County representative also confirms the Times Union Center temporarily opened to walk-ins on Wednesday to avoid wasting shots.

Meanwhile, predominantly rural communities seem to struggle the most. New York State measures what percent of a county’s population has been vaccinated, and Fulton County remains one of the lowest. Stead says his area didn’t have the early advantages that came to cities.

“Their statistics really jumped and that was because a lot of them had access, or nearby access, to those large state vaccination hubs. We are kind of halfway between any major population center here in Fulton County,” he explains.

He says numbers Thursday morning show this may be the first day the Fulton County pod is left with unused doses.

“We had about 200 shots allocated, that’s what’s typical of our Thursday first-shot pod, and as of this morning, it looked like only three-fourths of those appointments were filled,” Stead says.

These leaders all agree they’re trying their hardest to reach out and fill up slots. Stead says Fulton County plans to launch Thursday a series of radio ads to garner vaccine attention, and both McLaughlin and Brown say Rensselaer and Schenectady, respectively, have made good use of social media.

“We’re trying to make sure that no stone goes unturned here and that anyone who wants to get vaccinated has an opportunity to do so,” says Brown.

“At the end of the day, they’re free, American citizens and they’re going to make whatever the best decision is for themselves and their families, while we certainly encourage as many people as possible to get the shot,” McLaughlin says.

NEWS10 reached out to Governor Cuomo’s office to ask what changes may be made to the state’s allotment program and county deadlines to give areas struggling to fill appointments more leeway. We also asked at what percentage of a county population vaccinated will cross into “herd immunity” and less restrictions. So far, there has not been any response.

“You better have a number, Governor, that you’re ready to announce that when we get to this, the masks are coming off, we’re opening up and we’re going. There has to be an end in sight, and I think the governor needs to answer that sooner rather than later,” McLaughlin says.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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