ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Harry Nobel and his wife were willing to risk their lives driving though Tuesday’s ice storm just to get their COVID vaccines. Nobel says even though they live only 20 minutes away from the state’s UAlbany site, they couldn’t get an appointment anywhere other than Binghamton — more than two hours away.
“It was, you know, pretty treacherous with all the ice and all the flooding on the roads, with the freezing rain that was coming down,” says Nobel.
The Nobels aren’t alone in going extraordinary lengths just for access to the vaccine. Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin says so many across the state are crossing county lines to get vaccinated, it becomes unclear who still needs to be reached.
“So many of the people in my county I know have told me they’re going to Utica, Potsdam, Plattsburgh, Syracuse, and I could not for the life of me tell you how many people have gone out of the county to get vaccinated,” McLaughlin says to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.
The state announces there are plans to open more mass vaccination sites and free up local appointments. Wednesday, Governor Cuomo confirms the Washington Avenue Armory will be one of four new sites across New York. Albany County officials say originally, they had offered up the Times Union Center.
“It’s also adjacent to the capital center, so the prospects of combining those two event centers for a large mass vaccination site seemed like a good fit,” says County Deputy Executive Dan Lynch.
However, Cuomo says FEMA and the CDC helped choose places that would be accessible to underserved populations — people who also suffered some of the worst of the pandemic. The Armory is positioned adjacent to the Albany Public Library with a major bus stop out front, as well as another across the street on the Lark Street corner.
The mass vaccination sites will start in March and Cuomo’s announcement says initially, only local residents will be able to get appointments. Albany County says they still need to know how many doses they’ll get.
“We have 300,000, an excess of 300,000, residents in the county. If it’s going to be a multiple county effort or a capital region effort, we’re talking 1 million residents or so,” Lynch explains. “We would need to see and receive consistent additional resources in the thousands weekly to be able to address the capital region need.”
The state has not yet announced how many doses will go to each site; however, the governor says he expects the four sites to administer at least 1000 shots per day. The additional sites will be in Buffalo, Rochester, and Yonkers.
Meanwhile in nearby Rensselaer County, McLaughlin says he’s confused why a new site would open so close the the state-run UAlbany vaccination clinic.
“You’ve now put two massive vaccination sites within five miles of each other. It’s ridiculous,” he says. “Look, I hope there’s more coming, but does it make any sense at all to put a second mass vaccination site inside of one county?”
McLaughlin announces his county is ready to set up a new mass vaccination site by expanding the local POD in the Hudson Valley Community College gym.
“There’s more than enough room to probably double or triple the size of that pod. We could do that inside of two or three days just setting up the cubicles and the partitions and things like that,” McLaughlin explains.
He says Governor Cuomo called all county leaders around noon Tuesday asking for more mass vaccination volunteers. He says he’s ready and waiting.
“This site is ready to go, just send us the shots and will get the job done,” McLaughlin says.