BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Local health departments in Western New York are preparing to shift their focus when it comes to COVID-19 vaccination strategy, the head of the planning team for the region’s hub said Thursday.
Dr. Nancy Nielsen, a Senior Associate Dean for Health Policy at the University at Buffalo’s School of Medicine and a key part of Western New York’s vaccination hub, said Erie, Niagara, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, and Allegany Counties will be switching focus away from mass vaccination opportunities, and toward smaller points of distribution.
“The intense demand has been met. Now what we have to do is try to marry the people who are either on the fence or it hasn’t been convenient or they’re reluctant with vaccine that is more convenient for them,” Nielsen said.
The shift comes as New York State withdrew an order Monday which required vaccine distributors to administer doses within seven days of receiving them. When the order was in effect, facilities in violation could have been fined up to $100,000. In an email Thursday, an Erie County Department of Health spokesperson said this move gives local health officials more flexibility to plan and promote smaller community pop-ups.
In recent weeks, the county has been unable to fill vaccination appointments, and has opened up many clinics to walk-ins.
“Considering that Erie County is approaching half of its total population with at least a first dose, that trend has been expected, and we are moving ahead to plan pop-up and drive-thru sites in Erie County in cooperation with businesses, towns, houses of worship and industry organizations,” the ECDOH spokesperson said.
Dr. Nielsen also suggested the relaxing of the seven-day rule could encourage more providers to offer the vaccine.
“It will encourage, for example, small medical practices that have been reluctant to do this because of the penalties to say we’ll do it in the course of our office hours,” she said.
“We are working with county health departments, healthcare providers, including hospitals and pharmacies, and community partners throughout the state to ensure they have the doses they need to provide vaccinations to all the people in their respective regions who want them,” said Jeff Hammond, a spokesperson for the New York State Department of Health.