ALBANY — Nearly a quarter of the New Yorkers eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in this phase of the campaign have received the first dose of the two-shot vaccination.
The total Monday morning stood at 2.23 million first doses and 1.32 million second doses. Roughly 10 million New Yorkers are eligible because of age, ailment or occupation.
The percentage of vaccinated residents varies greatly from one county to the next, though. This can be due to unique local factors; that and erratic supply of vaccine from the state and federal governments; an overwhelmed appointment-scheduling system; and a network of vaccination sites that is huge but inadequately supplied and not evenly located.
- Fulton County is only 10.9% vaccinated, while adjoining Herkimer and Saratoga counties stand at 15.4% and 15.5%, respectively.
- Rural Schoharie County is only 9.8% vaccinated while Albany County next door, with its massive medical infrastructure, is 16.2% vaccinated. Adjoining Otsego County, also heavily rural, is 15.3% vaccinated.
- Kings County, also known as Brooklyn, is only 7.9% vaccinated. Some 34% of its residents are Black, a demographic group that is receiving special attention by the state and federal governments because of its reluctance to receive the vaccine. But Allegany County is just 7.5% vaccinated, and only 1.4% of its residents are Black.
The state Department of Health press office did not respond to a request for information or comment on the significant disparities between counties.
Local officials said each county has its own specific set of circumstances that increase or decrease its vaccination rate. Albany County has a very large population of 1A-eligible medical workers and it has mass-vaccination sites within its borders. Schoharie County is being supplied with too-few doses. Montgomery County feels there are other priorities than supplying small upstate counties. Schenectady County has a lot of 1A- or 1B- eligible people and a full-time health department working to reach them.
Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort touched on the issue in his weekly Facebook Live update Monday.
“The situation with the vaccine is still wildly frustrating in some ways,” he said. The county is getting 100 and 200 doses at a time to serve a waitlist that is more than 6,000 names long, he added.
He later told The Daily Gazette:
“We know that the smaller counties have all been receiving similar allotments. I would’t necessarily say I feel like we’re getting a fair shake on it, but I think a lot of the rural counties are in the same boat. There’s clearly a firm hand at the state as to what their priorities are. We have no idea what goes into that decision-making.”
One thing that works in the favor of county residents: They’ve got the state Thruway. If they find an appointment in central New York for a vaccine dose that’s not available locally, it’s a straight shot out and back, Ossenfort said.
Montgomery County last week recorded its 3,000th positive test, meaning about 1 in 16 county residents are known to have been infected with COVID in the past year.
But the trend is positive, Ossenfort said: 107 new cases were confirmed last week, 138 the week before and 158 the week before that. This compares with 393 in a single week in January, during the post-holiday surge.
Schenectady County Manager Rory Fluman said a combination of having a large number of residents eligible to receive the shot and a vigorous effort to reach them has helped boost the county’s vaccination rate, but has been countered by shortage of vaccine.
“We can do 2,000 shots a day, please give us the doses,” he said.
Schenectady County Public Health Services has converted its contact tracing personnel to injecting vaccine into shoulders, to recruiting people to roll up their sleeves and to organizing events (and if needed, transportation) to make it happen.
With the production increasing of the two authorized vaccines and with authorization potentially coming soon for a third vaccine, the logjam could break soon, Fluman said.
“I think we’re a month away from being oversupplied,” he said.
Then comes another hurdle: “The great public relations campaign will be on the people who are hesitant, reluctant to get the shot.”
Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy said via email: “We’ve been battling COVID-19 every way we can by first encouraging testing and now doing everything we can to get everyone who is eligible to get the shot. Albany County has many 1A- and 1B-eligible people because of our essential workers, colleges and hospitals. While this is good news, we won’t stop until everyone who wants a shot, gets one.”
Schoharie County has the lowest vaccination rate in all of northeastern New York and one of the lowest in upstate New York.
Conesville Supervisor Bill Federice, chairman of the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors, said a frustrating combination of factors has put it in this position: It has a thinly spread population, there are few points of vaccination, and vaccine has been in short supply.
Winter weather forced the late-hour cancelation, at great effort, of a clinic that had been set up at great effort.
Cobleskill Hospital ran out of eligible recipients for an allotment of doses so it sent the extra doses to an Otsego County nursing home rather than ask Schoharie County to line up some recipients.
There’s not a ZIP code-specific concentration of minority or marginalized residents that would lead the state to set up a targeted mass vaccination site, as it has for Albany and Schenectady counties, or in Brooklyn and Queens.
These little things have added up, Federice said. Absent any single factor, the county would at least have the satisfaction of surpassing 10% vaccination.
“I don’t think as a matter of policy that we’re getting the short end from the state,” he said.
Federice spoke shortly after an hourlong conference call with the state and leaders of some other counties.
“On the positive side, we are getting a significant number of vaccines this week, we’re getting 800, which is about double the most we’ve had” in any single week.
“We’re told there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”
If this increased supply line continues in sustained fashion, as he’s cautiously optimistic it will, the most basic obstacle to mass vaccination will be cleared.
But others remain, including a significant portion of the population reluctant to be vaccinated, a small number of pharmacies that can become vaccination sites, and the long distances between these sites and the homes of people who don’t have transportation.
The county is developing options for transporting those who can’t drive themselves.
“We have to find a way to make it easier for our most vulnerable folks,” Federice said.
As of Monday morning, 2,228,283 New Yorkers have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to an online dashboard maintained by the state.
That’s about 25% of the estimated 10 million people currently eligible to receive the vaccine statewide and 12.2% of the entire state population.
For counties in or near the Capital Region and Mohawk Valley, the percentages of population vaccinated are:
- Albany 16.4%
- Columbia 13.4%
- Greene 11.3%
- Fulton 10.9%
- Hamilton 39.0%
- Herkimer 15.4%
- Montgomery 13.0%
- Otsego 15.3%
- Rensselaer 14.0%
- Saratoga 15.5%
- Schenectady 15.0%
- Schoharie 9.8%
- Warren 16.2%
- Washington 10.6%
Other vaccination statistics as of Monday morning:
Skilled nursing facility residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine at a rate of 72% statewide; 81% in the Capital Region, ranging from 74% in Columbia County to 92% in Saratoga County; and 74% in the Mohawk Valley, ranging from 69% in Fulton County to 80% in Herkimer County.
Hospital workers have received at least one dose of the vaccine at a rate of 76% statewide; 89% in the Capital Region, ranging from 78% in Saratoga County to 99% in Rensselaer County; and 74% in the Mohawk Valley, ranging from 64% in Schoharie County to 80% in Otsego County.