WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Jefferson Community College has been designated as a mass COVID vaccination site.
The announcement came late Thursday afternoon. Local officials have been pushing for this for weeks.
(The above video is Emily Griffin’s early reporting Thursday evening. The video below is Brendan Straub’s follow-up report.)
Officials said shots could be administered to eligible people as early as next week if a vaccine supply is available.
Once vaccines become available, the clinics will run Thursdays and Saturdays and will be targeted to specific groups.
Thursdays will be for people age 65 and older and Saturdays will be for essential frontline workers, both in group 1b for vaccine distribution.
Healthcare personnel and first responders in medical roles that make up priority group 1a will continue to be vaccinated in local health care facilities.
It’s a collaborative effort between the state, Jefferson County Public Health, the Volunteer Transportation Center, and area hospitals.
County Legislature chair Scott Gray has been pushing for the site for several weeks.
“It will hopefully make life easier for people in the county that are looking for a vaccination and looking for registration,” he said. “Hopefully from start to finish for the public, we’re hoping it’s going to be a very simplified process.”
Gray says JCC was chosen because of its spacious gymnasium, which allows for social distancing and space to vaccinate hundreds.
Until now, Jefferson County residents have been struggling to get vaccination appointments because pharmacies book up quickly and the other option is to drive to Potsdam’s state-run site.
That’s something State Senator Patty Ritchie (R. - 48th District) says has been unfair, especially to elderly residents.
“It can be an hour and a half drive one way and, with the winter, when you make your appointment, you have no idea of the weather conditions,” she said.
The site will pool vaccines from what area providers already receive from the state to help vaccinate eligible people in groups 1a and 1b.
JCC president Dr. Ty Stone says this will be a great opportunity for the school’s nursing students.
“We always need more clinicals and I don’t think there is a disadvantage to having more experience, especially as a nurse,” she said.
The Volunteer Transportation Center will provide much-needed service for those who cannot easily access the site.
Healthcare workers from Carthage Area Hospital, River Hospital, North Country Family Health Center and Samaritan Medical Center will all be contributing to these clinics.
Grays says this is the county’s chance to show what it can do.
“Now it’s up to us to live up to that plan that we put forward and you know, they put confidence in us to run this operation and we will demonstrate that we can do it,” he said.
Ritchie says this site is a win-win situation because JCC’s nursing program is also willing to help administer vaccines, which will serve them as clinical hours.
“It’s a perfect opportunity for those who are looking to get an appointment to go locally, but also a perfect opportunity for those in the nursing program to be able to help,” she said.
Meanwhile, there is a separate clinic being held by Kinney Drugs at JCC this weekend.
It runs from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. All available appointments have been booked.
The following is a news release from the Jefferson County Board of Legislators:
With approval from the New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH), Carthage Area Hospital, Jefferson Community College (JCC), Jefferson County Public Health Service (JCPH), North Country Family Health Center, River Hospital, Samaritan Medical Center and the Volunteer Transportation Center will work collaboratively to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to groups 1a and 1b, once vaccine arrives in Jefferson County. The preparation and planning is complete and could be up and running as early as next week if supply is available.
The partners submitted a plan to the state to combine allotments of the vaccine and run a mass vaccination POD, or Point of Dispensing, at Jefferson Community College. The plan was approved and touted as a potential model other local areas may be able to use. JCC was chosen as a premier location because its large gymnasium allows for social distancing and provides space to vaccinate and observe hundreds of people. Volunteer Transportation Center will provide needed transportation services for those community members who cannot easily access the vaccination POD.
“I want to thank the people of Jefferson County for their patience as we take on the most significant undertaking in public health’s modern history,” said Director of Jefferson County Public Health, Ginger B. Hall. “We have a plan to vaccinate every eligible resident, but it will take time. Your turn will come. Please continue to wear your mask, keep 6 feet between you and others and wash your hands frequently.”
JCC President, Dr. Ty A. Stone, states “Jefferson Community College is inextricably linked to the community we serve, and we are grateful and excited to have our campus approved as a vaccination site. This important collaboration with our local agencies demonstrates our commitment to working together to beat this pandemic.”
The plan outlines that, once vaccines become available, the clinics will run Thursdays and Saturdays and will be targeted to specific groups. Thursdays will be for those over 65 years of age and Saturdays will be for essential frontline workers, both in group 1b for vaccine distribution. Healthcare personnel and first responders in medical roles that make up priority group 1a will continue to be vaccinated in local healthcare facilities. Please see the state’s website for an outline of eligible groups.
The COVID-19 vaccination POD will be able to flex up or down in our capacity depending on the weekly allocation from the state to each partner. The POD will also be able to accommodate and plan for timely 2nd doses since this is critical to the vaccination efficacy.
Healthcare personnel from all partnering agencies will work together to help operationalize the POD, ensuring that a large pool of staff is available including registered nurses, pharmacists, nursing students from JCC and others.
Once vaccine availability is secured, appointments will made online and a phone number will be provided to assist those who are not unable to make an appointment online. This information will be released once the vaccine is secured for Jefferson County.
Walk-ins will not be accepted; appointments must be made. Community members will need to provide proof of their eligibility status. As per NYS, this may include an employee ID card, a letter from an employer or affiliated organization, or a pay stub, depending on the specific priority status. If you are eligible due to age, you should bring a form of ID (like a Driver’s License or passport) that includes your date of birth.
Community members who are unsure of their vaccination eligibility status should visit this state-run website: https://am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/ or call the NYS COVID-19 Vaccination Hotline at 1-833-NYS-4-VAX (1-833-697-4829).
As vaccine becomes available, the partner agencies will update their websites and inform the media so the public is kept up to date. Please check these resources before contacting any partner agency.
Editor’s note: Kinney Drugs is also holding its own vaccine clinic at JCC on Saturday, January 30th from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Sunday, January 31st from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. This event is separate from the mass vaccination site we’ve detailed in this report. As for the Kinney clinic this weekend, appointments are already booked.