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COVID Update: How About A Waiting List?

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February 17, 2021

By Barrett Seaman–

It is a given that there is not enough supply of COVID-19 vaccine to meet the demand. As Governor Cuomo continues to remind New Yorkers, there are ten million of us currently eligible to get a vaccine but only enough doses being delivered to the state to inoculate some 300,000 each week. As of President’s Day, according to the governor, 92% of the doses delivered to the state have been used.

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Beyond the two million residents fortunate enough to have received at least one dose, however, there is a sea of frustration born of bewilderment. All but two or three of the state’s designated vaccination sites continue to register “no appointments available,” and those that do are hundreds of miles from Westchester and more than a month away from delivery. Pharmacies are now getting shipments—some directly from the federal government and some from the state, but in batches of 100 to 1,000 doses each that are snapped up in the blink of any eye. With the admission over the weekend of people under 65 with comorbidities, the demand pressure has accelerated dramatically.

Beyond the dearth of supply, there is no central coordination. Registering on the state system has no discernible relationship with the pharmacies, or with hospital systems that are prioritizing former patients already registered in their patient portals. The state is giving some priority to low-income citizens by opening mass vaccination sites in poorer neighborhoods and dropping in so-called “pop-up” sites in villages and towns around the state that operate for a day or two and move on.

Now the county is beginning to deliver on its promise to help teachers and other school staff members get shots. Westchester asked for 4,000 doses specifically for that group. They got only 1,100, according to County Supervisor Latimer, but it was enough to kick things off at the county-managed site at Westchester Community College (WCC). On President’s Day, 121 teachers and staffers from the Irvington school district were invited over to WCC. Among them was a teacher familiar to Indy readers: history teacher Dr. Erik Weiselberg, whose many essays on Westchester’s role in the American Revolution can be found on this site. “My superintendent helped to arrange it, and gave us the “link,” Dr. Weiselberg reports, “and so I got my first vaccine shot yesterday!”

That superintendent, Dr. Kris Harrison, says about a third of his 350-person staff availed themselves of the opportunity, “thanks to George Latimer and his staff.” Expediting those vaccinations, says Harrison, “will help to provide opportunities to increase daily student attendance, since staff members will be less likely to contract the virus.”



Bumping the poor and school employees up the line is all good policy but of little help to those who aren’t prioritized. Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner, who has recruited hundreds of “COVID Angels” to assist the elderly and digitally challenged in finding appointments, says he has heard of cases where Walgreen’s and CVS locations are not honoring appointments based on New York State eligibility requirements, choosing instead to follow different requirements from the CDC—apparently because they got their supplies directly from the feds and not from the state.

When asked about signing up in case an opening developed, a pharmacist at Walgreen’s in Tarrytown shook her head, saying the only way to get an appointment was through the corporate web site. At the Tarrytown branch, they were administering only 20 injections a day for appointments that had been locked in within minutes of being posted.

There could be a better way.

According to the Wall Street Journal, some vaccination sites in New York City have posted sign-up sheets for those who want to be notified when there is a no-show for an appointment or an extra dose. It’s all informal, but it helps fill in the gaps.

On Long Island, Nassau County Supervisor Laura Curran announced over the weekend that Nassau’s Internet Technology team has been developing a streamlined registration system that includes a waiting list she says will “alleviate the hassle of going on a wild goose chase for a vaccine.” South Dakota asks its citizens to register all their data, including occupation, age and medical condition, and the state will notify them when there is a dose available.

Perhaps New York State—or at least Westchester County—should look into that.


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