State surpasses 10M doses of COVID vaccine; most returning for second dose

Lisa McKay of Latham receives her first COVID-19 vaccine from Dr. Brenda Robinson at Duryee Memorial AME Zion Church on Hulett Street in Schenectady in March
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Lisa McKay of Latham receives her first COVID-19 vaccine from Dr. Brenda Robinson at Duryee Memorial AME Zion Church on Hulett Street in Schenectady in March

ALBANY — New York reached 10 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine delivered Friday afternoon, with about 19% of New Yorkers now fully vaccinated against the virus.

Most of these people have received the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which require two doses to be fully effective. The single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine is newer and has not been as widely available.

While finding an appointment to receive the first dose has been a frequent source of frustration due to the short supply and a fragmented delivery network, the availability of the second dose has been one of the success stories of the pandemic response.

The federal government holds the second doses in reserve, which limits the number of first doses available but guarantees availability of the second doses three weeks (Pfizer) or four weeks (Moderna) after the first dose is administered.

The weak link in the second-dose protocol occasionally is the people getting the vaccine: Appointments for second doses are booked at the time of the first dose and at the same location, and most but not all people follow through.

So far, the state Department of Health said, 95% of first-dose recipients have gotten their second dose on or very near the appointed date.

“Our goal is to put shots in arms as quickly and efficiently as possible, and approximately 5% of New Yorkers who have received their first dose are more than three days overdue for their second shot — which is well within the acceptable timeframe for effectiveness,” a spokesman said Friday.

“Everyone who receives a first dose at a state-run site receives a reminder email 24 hours before their second-dose appointment, and as stated in our guidance, providers must schedule the second dose during the first dose appointment.” 

There are legitimate reasons for skipping the second shot, DOH said: Hives or other allergic reactions developing within four hours of the first shot, for example. 

Those who forget to come in for shot No. 2 at a state-run point of distribution or otherwise can’t get there should call and reschedule.

County health departments run their own vaccination efforts in tandem with the state’s drive; three local counties say they’re seeing a close to 100% return rate for dose No. 2.

Schenectady County Public Health Services was above 99% as of Friday, excluding Thursday’s second-dose clinic at Rivers Casino, the results of which weren’t completely uploaded Friday.

“Our high return rate for second doses is a testament to Schenectady County’s proactive approach — sending out appointment reminders and calling individuals who miss their appointment to get them rescheduled — and our residents’ overall commitment to vaccination,” spokeswoman Erin Roberts said.

Schenectady County also offers people who lack computers or computer skills help scheduling appointments via phone (518-299-0518) or in person at libraries on certain days.

Because second doses are reserved for specific people, and because they have a limited shelf life, people who miss their second dose create a risk that the dose will be wasted.

Montgomery County Public Health Director Sara Boerenko said that hasn’t happened very often.

“We have seen about 20 people not come back for second-dose appointments,” she said via email. “In some cases we knew that folks were not returning due to contracting COVID, being sick with other illnesses or some folks simply forgot they had an appointment. When someone does not show for that appointment and did not call to tell us, we call them and ask if they are coming. Most of the time people are running late or forgot and are on their way.”

She added: “However, in the cases when doses go unclaimed, we report our waste number to NYS DOH to give that report. It has not happened that often for us but I have heard that in other areas it is happening frequently. We have administered almost 3,000 doses, so a waste of 20 doses is only 0.8% of vaccine waste.”

Albany County, the most populous county in the Capital Region, also has one of the highest vaccination rates among the eight counties — 38.9% of its residents have received at last one dose as of Friday morning, compared with 31.8% of the state as a whole.

Albany County health officials have administered more than 40,000 of the doses received by county residents (the rest were administered at state vaccination sites, pharmacies or by other sources).

Albany County Department of Health has seen about 187 people miss their second-dose appointment; 43 said they’d gotten the second dose elsewhere, and a handful declined the second dose because of an adverse reaction to the first.

The reasons the others didn’t show up often are unknown.

The Department of Health attempts via phone and email to reach those who miss the second appointment and reschedule.

Those who get only one shot will miss out on full benefit of the vaccine but will gain some resistance to the virus that has infected 22,738 of Albany County’s 306,000 residents and killed 340.

BY THE NUMBERS

Some statistics on the COVID-19 vaccine campaign:

  • New York surpassed 10 million doses of vaccine administered Friday afternoon; the total stood at 9.93 million as of 11 a.m. Friday, and the shots are being given at a rate of 200,000 a day.
  • Some 31.8% of New Yorkers have received at least one dose and 19.2% have received a complete vaccine series.
  • Nationwide, 157.6 million doses have been administered; 30.7% of the population has received at least one dose and 17.5% has received the complete series.
  • New York has risen significantly in number of doses administered per capita, and is now 18th among the 50 states up from 38th five weeks ago; it is first among states with more than 10 million residents.
  • First-dose vaccination rates vary greatly within New York’s 62 counties, from 23.2% (Bronx) to 58.7% (Hamilton).
  • For counties in and near the Capital Region, the percentage receiving the first dose is Albany 38.9%, Fulton 25.0%, Montgomery 32.5%, Rensselaer 33.9%, Saratoga 37.7%, Schenectady 38.8% and Schoharie 28.0%.

Categories: -The Daily Gazette, News

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