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Oneida County officials push vaccines as cases rise


As of Thursday, only 4% of children ages 5 to 11 years old had their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Oneida County. That’s about 700 kids since Pfizer was authorized for use in that age group roughly two weeks ago.

However, Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente said that’s not enough, and is holding a mass pediatric vaccination clinic next month in response to this slow rollout.

The clinic is at Sangertown Square on December 12 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and there’s a bit of an incentive for this one too.

“Every child who gets the vaccine at that pod will receive a $100 gift card,” said Picente.

This comes as the county’s positivity rate continues to climb, reaching 5.9% on Wednesday. Not long ago, Oneida County reached a morbid benchmark of 500 covid-related deaths. That number is now 522 as of Thursday, and Picente said that’s 522 too many.

“People are dying that don't need to be dying,” he said.

Only about 65% of the population 12 and older is fully vaccinated and Picente, along with Dr. Kent Hall of Mohawk Valley Health System, is concerned that at the rate cases are rising the county’s not headed in a good direction.

“The trajectory based on what we've seen in the last two or three weeks is not going in the right direction,” said Hall.

Hall specifically noticed the spike the county is currently experiencing is just two weeks after Halloween. Now with the holidays here, he’s wary of what’s to come two weeks after Christmas.

However, he and Picente agree that they’re doing all that they can.

“I can take care of you when you're sick, I would prefer you not get sick,” said Hall.

“It's in the hands of those people who are not vaccinated,” said Picente.

Despite the increase in cases, Picente says he will not be enforcing a mask mandate.

“So I'm going to punish the entire community for 30% of the population that doesn't want to get a vaccine,” said Picente. “I don't think that's the right thing to do.”

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.