OSWEGO — This year, Oswego Health had a rather special Christmas bonus for its frontline healthcare workers. Wrapped in a syringe, 1,159 doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine were administered to employees, EMTs, firefighters, medical examiners, coroners, and other community providers, beginning Dec. 24, according to Senior Director of Communications Jamie Leszczynski.
Seneca Hill Manor, Oswego Health’s nursing home, received about 200 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, enough for the entire staff and residents, administered by their pharmacy, Leszczynski said.
According to Oswego County Public Health Director Jiancheng Huang, the process of inoculation is considerably slower than the COVID testing procedure many have become familiar with.
“Given the priority groups established by New York state and the 15 to 20 minutes of post-injection observation recommended by the CDC, the health department cannot operate clinics on a ‘walk-in’ or ‘drive-thru’ basis,” Huang said Jan. 8. He expects it will take several months to vaccinate the entire Oswego County community.
As far as when the next batch of vaccine for new recipients will arrive, Huang said, “The next priority group, which will include residents aged 75 and older and essential workers (as defined by the state Department of Health) will become eligible around Feb. 1.”
Those who received the first batch of vaccine, however, should receive their required second dose much sooner, according to Leszczynski. That second dose is meant to be given three weeks after the first.
Regarding the requirements for new recipients, Leszczynski said Oswego Health is following the Department of Health and CDC guidelines and “their instructions on who is eligible for the vaccine and when. Right now, Phase 1A is healthcare personnel, first responders and those in medical roles such as emergency medical, medical examiners, coroners, funeral directors, and people living and working in long-term care facilities. Phase 1B will be other essential workers (and, as stated above, according to Dr. Huang, residents aged 75 and older). Phase 1C, as we’re being told and instructed, will be adults with high-risk medical conditions in people 65 years of age or older that have not already been vaccinated. So, we’ll be collaborating with the local Department of Health to make sure that the next level of individuals is vaccinated, and certainly as the community at large is eligible, we’ll partner as needed with the Department of Health to make sure that those that want it are getting it.”
And, in fact, some don’t want it. A number of those offered the vaccine at Oswego Health refused it, according to Leszczynski.
“That’s pretty common across the entire country when it comes to the vaccine being rolled out,” she said. “We actually did a survey of our employees in anticipation of receiving the vaccine, and it aligns pretty well with common questions that are posted on the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) website. Some individuals were concerned because it was to market so fast. Maybe some are pregnant or looking to get pregnant. We did a lot of education internally prior to the vaccine arriving to hopefully answer any of their questions or concerns. That certainly helped. But it’s just not Oswego Health that’s experiencing that, it’s across the entire country.”
Nevertheless, Oswego Health seems to have done a stellar job of administering the doses of vaccine it received, at least according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who named Oswego Health as being the most efficient vaccination provider in the state.
“We were kind of shocked that we were recognized but very proud of our team that quickly and efficiently set up a vaccine clinic and did everything necessary to further protect our frontline healthcare workers,” Leszczynski said. “This was a very collaborative effort of our team to make this happen on such short notice. We’re just really, really proud of everybody here for their efforts and for receiving the vaccine, and hopefully the next batch will arrive soon, and we’ll just continue on.”
To check your eligibility for the vaccine and when it may be available for you, please visit https://am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/
And if you are medically trained and can help with vaccinations and testing, the Oswego County Health Department is accepting applications from those who would like to volunteer.
Jiancheng Huang, Oswego County Public Health Director, said people with a medical background can help fill a vital need when the department begins holding COVID-19 vaccination clinics for the general public.
Medical volunteers can help as vaccinators and with COVID testing, the COVID-19 helpline, and other related responsibilities. Physicians, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, medical assistants, and other professionals are encouraged to apply.
Those interested are asked to fill out a form on the county’s COVID-19 page and provide information about their medical license, availability, areas of interest and related information.
The application form is posted on the health department’s COVID – 19 page at https://health.oswegocounty.com/information/2019_novel_coronavirus/medical_volunteering.php
Although the advent and arrival of the vaccine is a source of great hope, the reality of the rapid increase in cases of COVID here and throughout the country remains of great concern.
“Ever since Halloween, the numbers being reported are very, very significant and the rate of hospitalization continues to increase in this community,” Leszczynski said. “We have not yet seen the Christmas/New Year’s potential impact. So, we’re just trying to be as diligent as possible and as safe as possible should we receive additional patients here at Oswego Hospital. We are not overwhelmed. We’re not at full surge, and we’re monitoring that every day.”