How to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in the north country

Jennifer A. Pelton, director of Adult Services at Transitional Living Services in Watertown, is vaccinated Dec. 30 for COVID-19. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — Carthage Area Hospital is responding after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo included it on a list of hospital facilities having administered the lowest percentages of COVID-19 vaccines in the state during a press briefing Wednesday.

According to Gov. Cuomo’s PowerPoint slide, the hospital had used 39% of its allotted vaccine doses, implying it would be in danger of facing a fine and losing any unused vaccines under an executive order the governor issued earlier this week.

Shortly after the press briefing, Jefferson County Board of Legislators Chairman Scott A. Gray contacted several representatives in the governor’s office attempting to “clear up” the situation at the Carthage hospital, according to an email shared with the Times.

“They were scheduled to receive 500 doses on (Dec. 23), they actually arrived on (Dec. 29),” Mr. Gray wrote in the email. “In the meantime due to the delay the nearly 500 appointments scheduled had to be cancelled until the shipment was located. Secondly, after the 500 were received another 100 showed up unannounced and with no instructions on whom to vaccinate. CAH attempted to reschedule the previous appointments but the majority had already scheduled elsewhere.”

Carthage’s Foundation and Marketing Director Taylour L. Scanlin said the slide shared by the governor presented only a “snapshot” of where the hospital was at, and indicated that, by Wednesday afternoon, 47% of the doses had been administered.

“Initially, we were lagging behind due to Carthage receiving the first shipment of the vaccine one week later than anticipated compared to neighboring facilities which caused us to cancel 500 available appointments,” Ms. Scanlin wrote in a statement Wednesday. “This, coupled with the receipt of multiple shipments in a short time period has complicated the administration of the vaccine. After working with HANYS (Hospital Association of New York State) and the New York State Department Of Health, collectively, we have put measures in place to correct these issues.”

The governor has been criticizing some hospitals for slow administration of the vaccine, emphasized Monday by the order allowing the state to issue a civil penalty of up to $100,000 on facilities that did not expect to disperse, before the end of the week, all vaccine doses received before Jan. 4.

“We need them to operate quickly. We’ve put in place the seven-day ‘use it or lose it’ (policy). You know, there are 194 hospitals. If a hospital is not competent and can’t do this, we’ll use another hospital. It’s very simple,” Gov. Cuomo said.

Carthage Area Hospital had at least 100 appointments for vaccinations Wednesday and will continue to administer them Thursday and Friday, according to Ms. Scanlin.

Mr. Gray also indicated he’d spoken to an official in the governor’s office who suggested that any appointments made by a hospital for a vaccination would be taken into account as part of their percentage of vaccines “in-use.”

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