Vaccinations In Broome Near 5,000, Officials Are Still Building Capacity

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BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — COVID-19 vaccine distribution is slow-moving in New York. County executives from across the state said earlier this week that a lack of data and communication with state leaders in Albany is making distribution more difficult.

Broome County Executive Jason Garnar during a COVID-19 briefing last year. (Jillian Forstadt/WSKG)

When asked about the county executives’ statement on Wednesday, Broome County Executive Jason Garnar said he speaks with state officials regularly, but there’s a constant flow of information and not a lot of time to prepare to take next steps.

“We’re getting a lot of information real fast, in real-time,” Garnar said. “The challenge is being able to pivot when we need to pivot.”

As of Wednesday, there were 1,308 active cases of COVID-19 in the county. 106 Broome County residents are hospitalized.

In terms of the vaccine, Garnar said the county is never sure of how many doses are going to be made available and for whom. “There’s not weeks and weeks of prep time on that,” he said.

The county executive added that Broome is responsible for ensuring vaccination sites are staffed, using only the resources that exist already.

“There’s not a pool of vaccinators sitting over a couple streets away that we can just pull out,” Garnar explained. “We have to establish relationships with community partners, draft people from within the county. This is an ‘all hands on deck’ approach.”

While some states are seeing a lack of trained vaccinators slow down the number of injections, Rebecca Kaufman, director of the Broome County health department, said the county is in “decent shape” in terms of the number of providers available to vaccinate residents. She said retired and part-time medical staff are reaching out to help, too.

But the county is responsible for hiring that staff. With limited resources, they can’t hire them all on.

“I think through our community partnerships we’ve built and then also a network of volunteers, we’ll be able to build this up,” Kaufman said. “It’s just taking the time that it will take to do so.”

Community partners include private providers, like pharmacies. Kaufman said these sites are necessary for getting people vaccinated as quickly as possible.

Broome County will open a clinic to vaccinate health care and nursing home staff and residents this week.

County officials expect nearly 5,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine will have been given out in the county by the end of this week.