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County leaders push NYS to expand vaccine eligibility further

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO News (file photo)

Last week, appointments opened up at Onondaga County’s first drive-thru vaccination clinic. The two-day operation took place in the parking lot of Shoppingtown Mall on Monday and Tuesday.

However, as late as Monday morning appointments were still available.

Onondaga County is not alone in its struggle to find eligible residents to vaccinate. As the state slowly expands eligibility and counties around the state get more and more vaccines every day, some local counties have more vaccines than they know what to do with.

This dilemma comes only weeks after eligible New Yorkers were driving hours away and booking weeks in advance to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Now, Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon is begging the state to let him vaccinate his county.

“Let us vaccinate our community,” he said. “Eligibility needs to be expanded. At this point, just let us vaccinate anybody who's eligible to receive the vaccine.”

Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente said his county is also struggling to find enough eligible residents to vaccinate.

“It's time to move on, it's time to get our community, you know, vaccinated,” said Picente. “It’s time to get these businesses vaccinated so they can continue working and, you know, other businesses can do so as well.”

This week, the state did expand eligibility to those age 50 and older, but as McMahon pointed out in a briefing last week, central New York is flying through those newly eligible groups.

“The new eligibility groups that got opened, we're almost done with and it's Thursday and vaccine week’s Wednesday to Wednesday,” McMahon said on March 18.

Both Onondaga and Oneida County are ahead of the statewide vaccination numbers and have administered nearly double the vaccines of some parts of New York City. So, McMahon said the solution is to let counties and regions dictate eligibility instead of a blanket state rollout.

“The demands are different in each community,” he said. “It's not the same throughout New York State.”

Madison Ruffo received a Master’s Degree from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, where she specialized in audio and health/science reporting. Madison has extensively covered the environment, local politics, public health, and business. When she’s not reporting, you can find Madison reading, hiking, and spending time with her family and friends.