Vaccine clinic at JCC proves popular

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is administered at a pop-up clinic offering vaccines and booster shots in Rosemead, Calif., on Nov. 29. Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images/TNS

WATERTOWN — A walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinic held at Jefferson Community College on Sunday turned out to be overwhelmingly popular, and officials are already planning follow-up clinics for the county.

Between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Sunday, New York state officials opened the clinic to walk-ins and issued 530 booster shots to the fully vaccinated, as well as 11 first-dose shots and five second-dose shots.

Chairman of the Jefferson County Board of Legislators Scott A. Gray, R-Watertown, said those 546 walk-ins were well above what the expectation was for Sunday’s turnout.

“We were thinking, for a walk-in clinic, maybe 200 people,” Mr. Gray said Monday. “I remember, when we said that on the call, the head of the state vaccination team said that was a big clinic.”

The high turnout led to long lines, and hours-long waits. Some people who attended Sunday’s clinic reported waiting three hours or more, and Mr. Gray said an unknown number of people decided to leave rather than wait in the crowd.

Mr. Gray said some did filter into a nearby Kinney Drugs store.

Complicating the matter was that the contractor hired by the state didn’t come with all of the nurses it had planned to have. For the expected 200 people, officials planned to bring six nurses. However, three of the nurses called out citing transportation problems.

“We ended up putting in three or four vaccinators along with the state’s subcontracted three that showed up,” Mr. Gray said.

Mr. Gray said Sunday’s clinic turnout shows just how high demand is for booster doses, which have been relatively difficult to find in other areas of the north country. Some doctors’ offices and most pharmacies in the region are offering booster appointments and walk-ins when able, but appointments have been booked out to late January in many places.

The north country is facing its worst period for COVID-19 deaths and new infections, with record numbers reported nearly weekly. Things are expected to get worse before they get better, with holiday gatherings and cold weather likely to drive infections higher. On Monday, the county’s positivity rate dropped to 6.3%, but officials counted one more death.

Mr. Gray said officials are pushing hard to use every mitigation tool possible, from mask requirements to testing programs and mass vaccination sites again.

“I think there will be some new guidance on contact tracing, which would be to the isolation, quarantine process,” Mr. Gray said. “That’s going to be critical, because that is what therapeutic care is based on, if you’re in quarantine or isolation or not.”

Mr. Gray said he understands there is public criticism for mask requirements and other tools used to stop the spread of COVID-19, but it’s imperative that fewer people get infected with the disease to protect the stability of the local healthcare system.

Going forward, Mr. Gray said the state has pledged to bring another vaccination clinic to Jefferson County, and officials have heard his suggestions on how to make it work better than Sunday’s event.

Mr. Gray suggested taking steps to limit crowding at the site if they allow walk-ins, and limit appointments if they require them instead. He suggested computerized documents or a person on staff dedicated only to document handling, and one assistant for every three vaccinators dedicated only to drawing up prepped syringes of the vaccine.

Mr. Gray said more information will be forthcoming about state vaccine clinics in Jefferson County, and people are encouraged to make vaccination appointments at their local pharmacies as well.

“We are doing everything that’s within our power to address this situation and mitigate the spread,” Mr. Gray said.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

I write about north country politics, Jefferson County and the northern shoreline towns of Lyme, Cape Vincent, Clayton and Alexandria Bay

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(1) comment


Bring in the vaccination clinic pros- Kinney Drugs!

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