Mayor Lovely Warren wanted more time reserved for residents in underserved city ZIP codes to be able to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment at the Hawkeye site that would open March 3 on St. Paul Street.
She argued that a week wasn’t enough, given that residents in those neighborhoods may not have the hours or the computer equipment needed to navigate a website or stay on the phone.
Turns out, her fears that appointments would be snapped up once they were open to everyone eligible had merit.
The remaining 14,000 slots that became available the morning of March 4 were gone by early afternoon.
By comparison, it had taken days for city residents to claim that same number.
At a news conference Feb. 23, Warren said the state needed to provide an extra two weeks for city residents to sign up for appointments before opening the site to others eligible for vaccine. On March 4, a city spokesman said the mayor had no immediate to plans to lobby the state for a period dedicated for city residents.
The Hawkeye site is run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency with assistance from the New York. The site is scheduled to administer 28,000 vaccines.
Ensuring that all people who want a vaccine can get one remains a matter of equity – making sure the limited supply gets distributed across racial, ethnic and geographic lines among the growing pool of eligible recipients.
A door-to-door campaign in the city the last weekend of February – just days before appointments at the Hawkeye site opened to people outside the targeted ZIP codes – resulted in a few thousand sign-ups.
“It will take a couple of days for the impact of those outreaches to translate into actual clicks in registrations,” Wade Norwood, chief executive officer of Common Ground Health and co-chair of the Finger Lakes Vaccine Task Force, said during Monroe County’s weekly COVID-19 media update.
People without computer access can call 311 or visit a library to get help making an appointment.
“One of the problems that we’ve seen, that’s been a serious problem, has been based on the digital divide,” said Dr. Nancy Bennett, co-chair of the vaccine task force. “It’s been very difficult for people to make appointments. … We’ve been trying to think about different approaches to reduce this problem.”
In the meantime the appointments were taken, which is why Norwood said it’s critical to have an adequate supply of vaccine at sites that are accessible and have ways to get people to the location. RTS has suspended fares on the Route 35 St. Paul Street run, and people can call 211 to arrange transportation.
As to whether any vaccine would be held in reserve for vulnerable populations, Norwood said that is up to the state.
The vaccine task force is planning to make appointments available to community based organizations, which then can enroll their clients. Monroe County is working with the organizations to determine how many appointments each needs.
“We want to listen to our partners and ask them how many they can handle,” said Dr. Michael Mendoza, commissioner of the Monroe County Department of Public Health. “We don’t want to overburden a group. This is an ongoing project.”