The two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are given about a month apart. There are 1.2 million people in the Finger Lakes region. Even if they don’t all want the vaccine – which would make the line move a little quicker – those who do want to be immunized will need to be patient.
“We understand it’s not going as fast as anyone would like, myself included,” Dr. Michael Mendoza, commissioner of the Monroe County Department of Public Health, said Jan. 5 during an online news conference about vaccine efforts in the region.
Factors such as the amount of vaccine and when it arrives are only two of the variables. New York is following a distribution protocol established by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that puts a priority on people at high risk of contracting the virus and at high risk of complications.
However, those guidelines also call for equitable distribution, meaning an individual’s level of risk determines how soon they become eligible for the vaccine.
Mendoza said he would like everyone who wants to be vaccinated to have had both doses by fall. But at the current rate, he didn’t think that was possible. Right now, a vaccine is available from two manufacturers. At least one other is expected but it’s not clear when the Food and Drug Administration will allow its use.
Mendoza was joined by Dr. Nancy Bennett, Monroe County Executive Adam Bello and Ontario County Public Health Director Mary Beers for what the officials said was the first of regular briefings on the status of vaccine and vaccination progress in the city, county and region.
Here are some of the topics they discussed:
How is the vaccine being rolled out?
New York is using a three-phased approach as recommended by the CDC.
- Phase 1A: Health care workers who come in contact with patients, such as front-desk staff in a doctor’s office, and housekeeping and janitorial as well as doctors and nurses. Dentists, physical therapists and other types of providers are in this group, which is currently the only one receiving vaccine. There are about 100,000 eligible health care workers in the region. Phase 1B: Essential workers other than those in health care and people older than 75. Phase 1C: People ages 65 to 74 and people older than 16 who have chronic conditions.
- Phase 2: People who were missed in the first phase.
- Phase 3: Anyone between the ages of 16 and 65. There is no timetable for when Phase 1B and subsequent phases will begin.
How will someone know they are eligible?
The officials said it will be hard to miss your turn. Essential workers likely would be notified by their employer, and people over 75 or those with chronic conditions likely will be informed by their health care team that they can get the vaccine. For the general public, expect plenty of announcements. A website with local information is planned. In the meantime, check the state site at covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov
How will distribution be equitable?
Late last year, Monroe County assembled a task force for the rollout of the vaccine, and the planning is being done around the goal of achieving equity because of the effect of COVID-19 on communities of color. Delays in availability of vaccine will need to be explained in terms of the complexity of trying to vaccinate hundreds of thousands of people based on their risk, not on economic hierarchy.
What is happening in nursing homes and assisted living facilities?
Skilled nursing and assisted living facilities were eligible for a federal program that partnered with Walgreens and CVS. The facility will receive vaccines through whichever pharmacy it has signed with. The state has little to no information about the schedule that the pharmacies have for vaccinating nursing home residents.
How long before full immunity is reached?
The CDC said it can take two to three weeks after the second dose. People who received both doses are unlikely after that time to have any complications from the virus, but they still can transmit COVID-19. They still need to wear a mask, stay physically distant and avoid gatherings.