WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Starting Sunday, Valentine’s Day, a new group of people is eligible to sign up for COVID-19 vaccines.
The question this week: how will these new people be handled by a public health system already straining to vaccinate as many people as it can?
At the COVID clinic at Jefferson Community College Monday, there wasn’t an empty seat in the house. Poke after poke, nurses got through as many patients as they could.
Soon there will be even more.
Governor Cuomo says people with underlying health conditions can start signing up for the vaccination process on Sunday.
Local leaders say they’re struggling to vaccinate the current eligible group, let alone adding more.
“We’re putting more cars into a traffic jam,” Scott Gray, chairman of the Jefferson County Board of Legislators said Monday.
Even Governor Cuomo expects the added people will be a struggle, as the state waits for more supplies to come in.
“Expect the appointments to be booked very quickly; this will be an ongoing tension until supply is greatly increased,” the governor said.
Cuomo says they’ll divide up the vaccines to counties based on how well their distribution sites are working. Gray says he hopes the success of the JCC clinic will mean more supplies.
“This here (JCC) demonstrates our ability to do more, and we keep pushing to the state that we have that capability,” Gray said.
So people with underlying conditions may be able to sign up for their vaccine starting Sunday, but when will they actually get in?
In Jefferson County, they’ll have to wait for their designated day.
“On a weekly basis, we’re going to announce what our clinics are doing for the week” Gray said.
So, for example, teachers might be designated to a Monday, people with underlying conditions might have a clinic on a Tuesday.
“It’s going to be a slow process, so people have to remain patient. We’ll do the best we can, That’s all we can do.” Gray said.
It’s much the same story in St. Lawrence County. Bill Sheridan, head of the St. Lawrence County legislature, told 7 News the new eligibility standard is “overwhelming.”
“We’ll always be in a position where we won’t be in short supply of vaccines,” Sheridan said.
He adds, “it’s a challenge.”
He says St. Lawrence County will be waiting on some further guidance from the state regarding who’s eligible, and hoping for more vaccines.
“All we ever know is one week at a time.”
He says, if you have underlying health conditions, you’re welcome to try for an appointment on Sunday, but he says “Once we get assurance that we’ll get more supplies, then we’ll know for sure.”
People who have underlying health problems or “comorbidities.”
Here’s the proof you’ll need: a doctor’s letter; “Medical Information Evidencing Comorbidity” or “Signed Certification.”
The list of conditions includes:
- Cancer (current or in remission, including 9/11-related cancers)
- Chronic kidney disease
- Pulmonary Disease, including but not limited to, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma (moderate-to-severe), pulmonary fibrosis, cystic fibrosis, and 9/11 related pulmonary diseases
- Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities including Down Syndrome
- Heart conditions, including but not limited to heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies, or hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) including but not limited to solid organ transplant or from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, use of other immune weakening medicines, or other causes
- Severe Obesity (BMI 40 kg/m2), Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 kg/m2 or higher but < 40 kg/m2)
- Sickle cell disease or Thalassemia
- Type 1 or 2 diabetes mellitus
- Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain)
- Neurologic conditions including but not limited to Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia
- Liver disease