WATERTOWN — Last week, as a designated vaccination site, the North Country Family Health Center received 300 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
Catherine Veley, FNP, a primary care provider, received the first vaccine at the facility Tuesday.
With a limited amount of COVID-19 vaccinations available during the first phase of the state’s vaccination program, the state Department of Health developed a prioritization and allocation framework based on guidance from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
Registered nurse Barbara A. Fargo, clinical operations officer for the NCFHC, has been coordinating the vaccine distributions at the facility.
“It’s an honor to be part of this historic event and that NCFHC can play a role in vaccinating the community,” she said. “I received a vaccine last week, it’s just my personal opinion that it’s very important that if you have the opportunity to receive the vaccine, that you be vaccinated.”
During the first phase, the advisory committee recommended that vaccines be provided to critical populations according to three sub-phases: Phase 1A being healthcare personnel, such as paid and unpaid personnel working in a healthcare setting, first responders in medical roles such as emergency medical services providers, medical examiners and coroners, funeral workers and persons living in and working in long-term care facilities; Phase 1B being other essential workers; and Phase 1C being adults with high-risk medical conditions and people 65 years of age or older not already vaccinated in earlier phases.
At the NCFHC, staff members qualifying for Phase 1A were vaccinated last week.
This week, beginning Tuesday, staff members and residents of area nonprofits qualifying for Phase 1A were also vaccinated.
From the 300 total vaccines, a certain amount were designated to administer to NCFHC staff front line workers, then a certain percentage were to go to area agencies that provide conjugate level living for their residents and staff. One such agency is Transitional Living Services of Northern New York.
Jennifer A. Pelton, director of Adult Services at Transitional Living Services, received the vaccine Wednesday morning along with a share of her coworkers and residents — about 50% of TLS staff working in residential services were vaccinated.
“I want to protect the people that I’m around,” she said. “I hope everybody that can qualify to get it, I hope they all get it. It’s really important in a program like ours when we’re working with a vulnerable population. We were just thrilled to have the opportunity to get the vaccination and to come to North Country Family Health, it was so convenient and the staff are really awesome.”
Though she was a bit nervous ahead of receiving the vaccine, she said it was totally fine and didn’t hurt. Her advice to those receiving the vaccine is simple: Wear a sleeveless shirt to streamline the process.
North Country Family Health Center is one of more than 70 federally qualified health centers across New York. As a qualified center, NCFHC was allocated vaccine doses from the DOH for its health care personnel as well as an allocation to assist with vaccinating staff from OASAS facilities, staff and residents from OMH facilities, as well as staff and residents from OPWDD facilities.
All staff were prioritized based on department, job title and age to develop a risk-based prioritization and staff will be vaccinated in order of risk. The DOH is coordinating vaccine administration to priority groups.
At this time, vaccines are not yet available to the general community.
Individuals who received their vaccines this week will receive their second doses in 28 days at North Country Family Health Center as well, with the facility promised by the DOH that another shipment will be delivered in time.
According to Ms. Fargo, the NCFHC has been receiving multiple calls from individuals in the community, especially adults 65 years and older, who want the vaccine and are not in the 1A tier that the DOH has designated to get the vaccines first.
“I’ve been part of administering the vaccine as well as monitoring people, so I’ve had a lot of opportunity to talk to individuals who have received the vaccine,” she said. “I think that if you’re fortunate to be in that 1A tier that you should take the opportunity to get vaccinated.”