LOWVILLE — Lewis County Public Health continues its effort to improve COVID-19 vaccination rates among a hesitant population.
According to information provided by Public Health Director Ashley Waite in the county Board of Legislators Health and Human Services Committee meeting Tuesday afternoon, vaccination numbers across Lewis County are lagging behind both neighboring counties, and the state as a whole.
While as a state, the 70% vaccination goal anticipated to bring herd immunity has been reached, most north country counties are still thousands of vaccines short of the national goal to reach that number by July 4.
Although 65% of Jefferson County residents and about 62% of St. Lawrence County adults have received at least the first dose of the vaccine, according to regional hub data provided by Mrs. Waite, only 55% of adults in Lewis County have had the first shot.
Mrs. Waite noted that the age group most vulnerable to COVID-19, those aged 60 to 79 years old, are well covered at about 80% fully vaccinated.
Other counties in the region have either met and surpassed the goal or are very close. Hamilton County is at 85%, Essex 70% and Clinton County is short 479 people to reach 70%. Franklin County has 60% of its adult population with one vaccination dose.
In the ZIP code-by-ZIP code breakdown of Lewis County that Mrs. Waite provided, only the Constableville area qualifies as a ZIP code “needing improvement” by the state as only 40% of adult residents have received the first vaccine dose and 32% are fully vaccinated.
An additional four of the 15 ZIP codes in or partially in Lewis County have less than 50% of the residents with one dose of vaccination and nine in addition to Constableville that have 50% or fewer residents that are fully vaccinated.
The top four most-vaccinated ZIP codes are Greig with 71% of adult residents with one dose of the vaccine and 63% fully vaccinated; Natural Bridge with 82% of adults with one dose and 72% fully vaccinated; Carthage at 86% with one dose and 71% fully vaccinated; and leading the pack is Harrisville with 93% of the adult population having had one dose of vaccine and 84% who are fully vaccinated.
“I do want to note that Harrisville, Carthage and Natural Bridge are quite high,” Mrs. Waite told legislators during the meeting. “Fort Drum does not report to the New York state vaccination registry so our hub takes the data that (Fort Drum) supplies to them and distributes to ZIP codes based on population around Fort Drum, so that is most likely why those areas are as high as they are.”
As of Tuesday, 4,099 people in the county have received their first dose of the vaccine through 70 Public Health vaccine clinics held in 18 different locations. Of that total, 3,209 people have been fully vaccinated.
Those vaccinations account for 37.9% of the 10,804 people who claim Lewis County as their primary residence who have had one shot and 32.5% of the 9,876 who are fully vaccinated as indicated by the state COVID-19 vaccine tracker website.
In order to ensure the 2,957 people needed to bring the county up to the 70% vaccination threshold, Mrs. Waite said Public Health workers will continue to do as much outreach as possible, even to those that are harder to reach.
“We have a good relationship with the jail. When they have somebody that wants a vaccine they just call us and we work around clinics that we already have scheduled,” she said, using the opportunity to ensure that vaccines aren’t wasted as much as possible. The same plan has been used to vaccinate homebound people.
Public Health also works with large employers and farms to set up on-site clinics for their employees.
To date, 14 inmates, 210 homebound people and 40 migrant workers have been vaccinated by the department along with 311 students who were vaccinated through the school clinics.
Public Health will hold a vaccination clinic at a local farm this weekend to vaccinate migrant workers, while on Friday there will be a vaccination clinic at Lowville Fire Hall from 9:30 to 10:45 a.m. offering the first Moderna shot or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. In addition, from 3 to 7 p.m., another drive-through clinic will be held at the Lewis County Fairgrounds in Lowville.
To expand outreach, vaccination will be available at all major events in the county including the Lewis County Fair in July and vaccines will be available by appointment in the Public Health office on a regular basis starting at the end of the month.
“We’re trying, as we finish up one effort, to come up with another,” Mrs. Waite said.