OSWEGO — Oswego County Legislature Chairman James Weatherup and Public Health Director Jiancheng Huang are asking residents to be patient as they try to schedule appointments to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
In addition to the frontline health care workers in the phase 1a and 1b groups who are still being vaccinated, those now eligible to receive the vaccine include individuals 65 and older, those who are immuno-compromised, first responders, public safety officers, teachers and other school staff; in-person college instructors, childcare workers, public-facing grocery store workers, transit workers and individuals living and working in homeless shelters.
Chairman Weatherup said that although the health department has practiced mass vaccination clinics for years, the county is not receiving enough vaccine from New York state to set up mass vaccination clinics yet.
“The challenge we currently have is New York State is not providing the county with enough vaccine doses for us to use our mass vaccination capability,” said Chairman Weatherup. “The doses that we do receive are not arriving on a regular basis, and this makes it difficult to schedule vaccination clinics.”
Chairman Weatherup said the county is in constant communication with State Health officials and the Governor’s Office requesting more vaccine for Oswego County.
Vaccine must be distributed within the strict guidelines established by New York State. All vaccinations are by appointment only. There are no walk-in appointments.
Eligibility determination and a list of nearby providers where appointments can be scheduled are available through New York’s new “Am I Eligible” app at https://am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/ or by calling the New York State Vaccination Hotline, 1-833-NYS-4VAX (1-833-697-4829).
“There are very limited allotments of COVID-19 vaccine coming from the state to Oswego County,” said Chairman Weatherup. “Our community-wide pandemic response team has the capability of vaccinating several thousand residents a week. But we only currently receive a few hundred doses in that same timeframe. We have no choice but to work with what we have and under the rules that the State has established.”
As more vaccine becomes available, more clinics will be scheduled and publicized.
“We have people clamoring for the vaccine and our county health department is ready,” said Huang. “All doses that we have received are being administered. Not a single dose is being wasted. All we need is for the state to send us more vaccine on a regular schedule so we can plan and publicize vaccination clinics.”
As vaccine becomes available, the County Health Department is contacting many area agencies and employers to let them know when clinics are being scheduled. People may also go to the “Am I Eligible?” page to see if they are eligible and make appointments if available.
There are no restrictions on receiving the vaccine in another county if the person is eligible for the vaccine. The New York State Fair is hosting a state-run mass vaccination site at the Expo Center as a regional site. Appointments will be available seven days a week for the foreseeable future.
“Our goal is to get as many county residents as possible vaccinated in a timely manner,” said Huang, “be that through the county health department or otherwise.”
Sara Sunday, administrator of the Oswego County Office for the Aging, said those age 65 or older who do not have access to schedule their own appointment over the internet, or who require assistance over the phone, may contact the Oswego County Office for the Aging for assistance in scheduling appointments on the New York State eligibility site.
OFA staff will ask the screening questions that are required to get to the scheduling screen and will assist with registering for an available appointment slot.
She noted that Governor Cuomo has stated people may have to wait several months before they can schedule an appointment.
Those age 65 or older who need assistance may contact the Office for the Aging weekdays at 315-349-3484.
After they receive the first dose of the vaccine, people need to wait three to four weeks, depending on the brand of vaccine, and then receive a second dose.
The state Health Department advises that people continue to follow all COVID-19 protocols including wearing a face mask, avoiding unnecessary gatherings of all sizes, and washing hands frequently to prevent the spread of the virus.