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Seniors can get vaccines, but patience urged

The state-run COVID-19 vaccination center at the Plattsburgh International Airport is bustling Wednesday. (Enterprise photo — Connie Martelle)

New York state expanded COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to everyone over 65 years old more than two weeks ago. Ever since, many local seniors have reported having trouble scheduling an appointment to get vaccinated.

The challenges seniors say they’re facing vary. Some aren’t familiar with the internet, some are logging on to pharmacy websites only to find no appointments available, others have called vaccine hotlines and found the line busy, while others have reported having difficulty finding transportation to get to vaccine appointments.

Officials from both Franklin and Essex counties say there is help available for seniors to get vaccinated.

For those willing to travel, appointments to get vaccinated at a state Department of Health-run clinic can be made by visiting https://am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov or by calling 833-697-4829. The closest of these clinics are in Plattsburgh, at the Connecticut Building at Plattsburgh International Airport, and in Potsdam at the SUNY Potsdam Field House. As of Wednesday afternoon, both the Plattsburgh and Potsdam clinics had appointments available.

However, pharmacies have largely been given the responsibility of vaccinating seniors. In the Tri-Lakes area right now, that means scheduling an appointment with Kinney Drugs. As of Wednesday afternoon, none of the local Kinney Drugs locations were accepting appointments for the rest of the month, next month or even in March, according to the company’s website. As of Wednesday, the Kinney Drugs location in Malone had a few appointments available in early February.

Essex County Office for the Aging Director Krissy Leerkes urged people to be patient, citing a limited number of vaccine doses available and a large number of people looking to get vaccinated.

“It’s going to take some time to get everybody vaccinated,” she said.

About 7 million New Yorkers are currently eligible to get vaccinated. But the federal government controls the flow of doses to each state, and New York has been receiving between 200,000 and 300,000 doses each week.

As of Wednesday, the North Country region has received 50,945 doses of the coronavirus vaccine, according to the state Department of Health. Of those, about 71% have already been administered. Statewide, 96% of New York’s vaccine allotment has already been administered.

Leerkes suggested that seniors register with a local pharmacy, and when an appointment is available, the pharmacy will give them a call.

“Most of the time, those appointments are made over the internet,” Leerkes said. “If they can’t access the internet, they can call the office (the county Office for the Aging), and we will assist them.”

Transportation

Seniors who have Medicaid can order transportation to a vaccine appointment through Medical Answering Services, according to Leerkes.

Seniors who live in Essex County can call 1-866-753-4442 or visit www.medanswering.com/locations/nys/hvri/Essex. Franklin County seniors can visit www.medanswering.com/locations/nys/flnny/franklin or call 1-844-666-6270.

Seniors who don’t have Medicaid, and don’t have friends or family to drive them to an appointment, should contact their local county Office for the Aging. In Essex County, call 518-873-3695. In Franklin County, call 518-481-1526.

“If they truly do not have any form of transportation, they can contact our office and we can see how we can possibly assist them to get transportation,” Leerkes said.

Checkup tool

Those who want to learn more about how at risk they may be of contracting COVID-19 can check out a tool created by the state Office for the Aging, the Association on Aging of New York and BellAge, at https://newyork.cv19checkup.org. The website asks users to share information about themselves, what activities they’ve participated in, how many people they’ve come in contact with and what safety precautions they’ve taken. The site then generates a personalized report with information about how to lessen your risk of contracting the disease, and what activities you’re participating in that could be high-risk.

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