Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell announced that the Putnam County Department of Health received its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines and will begin vaccinating workers and residents of certain congregate living facilities this week.
“This is what we have all been waiting for,” County Executive Odell said. “At last, the vaccine is in the hands of our county health department and will be going into the arms of our healthcare providers and most vulnerable citizens. Our health department is trained for this, they are the experts in public vaccination programs and they are ready to go. The Department of Health runs vaccination programs every flu season and also when facing health crises like the H1N1 virus.”
The department received 600 doses of the Moderna vaccine on Tuesday and on Thursday will vaccinate staff and residents of facilities run by the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, Office of Mental Health, and Office of Addiction Services and Support, agencies that were given priority by the state. The Moderna vaccine requires a second dose 28 days after the first.
Putnam County will conduct the closed COVID-19 vaccination Point-of-Dispensing (POD) for eligible county residents. Those who live or work in the facilities have been notified that they can sign up to receive the vaccine. PODs are a collaborative effort with the Department of Health at the helm and support from local law enforcement, EMS, and volunteers.
“When local health departments step up and run PODs, we are showing the community that we believe in this vaccine and truly see this as our way forward,” Michael Nesheiwat, MD Commissioner of Health said. “As the vaccine becomes more widely available, we strongly urge everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated.”
Putnam County Department of Health staff worked throughout the holiday week to put together a vaccination distribution plan that was requested on Christmas Eve by the Hudson Valley region’s vaccination hub at Westchester Medical Center. Putnam’s was among the first county distribution plans approved.
On Wednesday, County Executive Odell activated the Bureau of Emergency Services Incident Command Structure to oversee an orderly rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination program.
“We recognize there is both a desire for vaccines as well as a certain amount of vaccine hesitancy,” said Kathy Percacciolo, PCDOH Supervising Public Health Nurse. “Residents should be assured, the COVID-19 vaccines we have are safe and effective.”
The COVID-19 vaccine is in short supply — the state has received just 300,000 a week — and so the New York State Department of Health established a strict distribution schedule. The first phase, called Phase 1A, prioritizes healthcare workers and staff and residents of nursing homes and other congregate care facilities. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Phase 1A includes 2.1 million healthcare workers. Putnam County has asked the state to include police and fire departments in Phase 1A.
County executives from the New York State Association of Counties have asked Gov. Andrew Cuomo for more independence in managing the vaccination process.
Local health departments are just one of the agencies that will distribute COVID-19. Hospitals, federally qualified health centers, urgent care centers and pharmacies have also been assigned various Phase 1A groups to vaccinate.
In New York State, Phase 1A includes:
- High-risk hospital workers (emergency room workers, ICU staff and Pulmonary Department staff)
- Residents and staff at nursing homes and other congregate care facilities
- Federally Qualified Health Center employees
- EMS workers
- Coroners, medical examiners and certain funeral workers
- Staff and residents at OPWDD, OMH and OASAS facilities
- Urgent Care providers
- Individuals administering COVID-19 vaccines, including local health department staff
As of Jan. 4, the following people qualify for vaccination:
- All Outpatient/Ambulatory front-line, high-risk health care workers of any age who provide direct in-person patient care
- All staff who are in direct contact with patients (i.e., intake staff)
- All front-line, high-risk public health workers who have direct contact with patients, including those conducting COVID-19 tests, handling COVID-19 specimens and COVID-19 vaccinations
- This includes, but is not limited to,
- Doctors who work in private medical practices and their staff
- Doctors who work in hospital-affiliated medical practices and their staff
- Doctors who work in public health clinics and their staff
- Registered Nurses
- Specialty medical practices of all types
- Dentists and Orthodontists and their staff
- Psychiatrists and Psychologists and their staff
- Physical Therapists and their staff
- Optometrists and their staff
- Pharmacists and Pharmacy Aides
- Home care workers
- Hospice workers
The state has not released detailed plans for the next phase, Phase 1B, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said it will cover 2.5 million people and include essential workers and those 75-years-old or older.
Dr. Nesheiwat said the Putnam County health department is prepared to vaccinate more residents and employees of Putnam County as the vaccine roll-out progresses.
The Centers for Disease Control and the state Department of Health advise those who have had COVID-19 to wait 90 days before getting vaccinated. Recipients of convalescent plasma must also wait 90 days. Individuals on quarantine cannot attend a vaccination POD.