ALBANY — Albany, Rensselaer and Schenectady counties have formed a partnership that has led to the state sending them more COVID vaccine jointly than it would have allocated to them individually.
Schenectady County is going to use its share to hold a mass vaccination clinic for county residents age 65 or older on Sunday at Rivers Casino & Resort.
It sent out a mass email and robo call Wednesday to the residents who had pre-registered for such an alert, and will offer in-person help Thursday through Saturday to those who need assistance making appointments.
Albany County also plans to use its additional doses for elderly residents, at a Saturday clinic at the Times Union Center. Rensselaer County will allocate the doses in multiple directions.
Leaders of the three counties announced the developments Wednesday morning.
In total, about 3,000 additional doses came to the three counties.
Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy, Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin and Schenectady County Manager Rory Fluman said the interconnected nature of the three neighboring counties made the agreement both possible and, to some extent, necessary.
There is so much travel between the counties that collective immunity can’t be achieved if one county lags too far behind the others.
“Every shot we get in someone’s arm, in any county, benefits us all here in the Capital Region so we can start to get away from this,” McCoy said.
McLaughlin noted that cooperative efforts began almost a year ago, with the three counties sharing masks, testing kits, and other critical pandemic supplies as needed.
The fourth large-population county in the Capital Region — Saratoga County — will be looped in soon, McCoy said. It was excluded mainly because of the speed with which the arrangement was made with the state.
McCoy said he made the pitch directly to Larry Schwartz, one of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s key aides in the mass vaccination campaign.
The three counties will get about 1,000 doses each from this extra allocation, and stand to receive more if they demonstrate that the partnership model they’ve built is more effective than single-county efforts.
A reporter asked about racial disparities 11 weeks into the vaccination campaign. By the state tally, whites constitute 93.3% of those who have received at least one dose of the vaccine in the Capital Region but constitute 86.2% of the population age 16 or older, the minimum age to be vaccinated.
Each of the three county leaders said efforts have been made to increase outreach to minority communities, but have been hampered by a few factors: the universal shortage of vaccine, the heavily white complexion of the priority 1A population here and the reluctance by many Black people to be vaccinated.
McLaughlin noted that a testing clinic specifically focused on minorities in Troy’s Lansingburgh neighborhood also drew limited participation from Black residents.
Another reporter asked why the partnership was being announced now, one year and two days after COVID reached New York.
It has existed informally all along, the county leaders said. The increasing availability of vaccine makes it possible to specifically focus on vaccination now, they said, and may make it unnecessary in a month or so, if the vaccine supply increases as radically as projected.
McCoy issued a plea for vigilance as the vaccine becomes more available, saying its benefits don’t end the need for precautionary measures and smart behavior.
He noted that Albany County on Wednesday had been notified of the COVID-related deaths of five more of its residents, all of them at a single congregate-living facility.
Normalcy, McCoy said, may not come until the end of summer.
“I wish I was wrong, I said this at the beginning: It’s going to be a marathon, not a sprint.”
The state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker website indicates 3.13 million New Yorkers, or 15.6% of the state population, have received at least one dose of the two-shot vaccine. At the county level, the numbers locally are:
- Albany 61,436 20.0%
- Fulton 7,158 13.4%
- Montgomery 8,277 16.7%
- Rensselaer 25,990 16.3%
- Saratoga 44,174 19.2%
- Schenectady 28,645 18.4%
- Schoharie 4,005 12.9%
Over 1,100 doses of vaccine will be available for older Schenectady County residents Sunday.
Vaccine shortages and hassles in scheduling have proved frustrating for many New Yorkers, and led to some people making multiple appointments to increase their odds of finally getting the shot.
Schenectady County Legislator Sara Mae Pratt urged them not to do this Sunday, as it would deprive someone else of the vaccine.
“Schenectady County’s goal is to vaccinate as many eligible residents as possible,” she said in a news release. “We are asking residents who already have vaccine appointments in the Capital Region to keep those appointments to ensure that those who don’t have the ability to travel have access to vaccines.”
Details are as follows:
Hours: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, March 7
Site: Event Center, Rivers Casino & Resort, Mohawk Harbor, Schenectady; park in the garage and take the elevator down
Eligibility: Schenectady County residents age 65 or older with appointment and with proof of residency and age
Second dose: March 28, also at Rivers
Appointments: Available online at www.schenectadycounty.com or in person 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday-Saturday at the Karen B. Johnson Branch of the Schenectady County Public Library, or 10 to 11:30 a.m. and 1 to 4 p.m. Thursday at the Mont Pleasant Branch and Friday at the Bornt Branch