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Vaccination site opens in Plattsburgh

Executive Deputy Director for New York State Department of Transportation Ron Epstein speaks at the opening of the new COVID-19 vaccination site in Plattsburgh Monday. The site is set to administer 500 shots a day for the foreseeable future. (Provided photo — Joe LoTemplio, Press-Republican)

PLATTSBURGH — With the aim of making New York the first COVID-19-free state in the country, a series of vaccination centers opened statewide Monday, including one in Plattsburgh.

“That certainly is a goal I support, and this center will go a long way toward making that happen,” Clinton County Legislature Chairman Mark Henry (R-Area 3, Chazy) said.

Center now open

The state-operated vaccination center opened in Plattsburgh Monday morning at 213 Connecticut Road near the flight line of Plattsburgh International Airport.

It will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week for as long as it takes to eliminate the virus, Ron Epstein, executive deputy commissioner of the state’s Department of Transportation, said at a news conference.

About 500 of the Pfizer vaccines will be administered per day at the site, Epstein said, with that number increasing as more doses become available.

Moderna vaccines will also be administered at the Plattsburgh site as they become available.

But doses are hard to come by, and with 7 million New Yorkers currently eligible for vaccines, the allotment from the federal government is not enough, Epstein said.

“We are going to need all hands on deck to make sure this operation is a success, but I am confident that the qualified team we have here today will get this job done,” Epstein said.

“That includes the federal government. As we expand the population of those eligible based on federal guidance, we also need increased distribution points, and we’re going to need more vaccinations… the federal government has reduced the supply even further.

“We now receive 250,000 vaccinations per week, so basically at this rate we are looking at up to six months to only vaccinate those that are currently eligible. So we need the federal government to step up and do better. We need Washington, D.C., to provide the doses so we can get shots in the arms and protect New Yorkers.”

Rollout problems

The vaccine rollout process federally and statewide has been plagued by hiccups since it began in mid-December.

The delays have led to sniping at the state level, with several Republican lawmakers charging that the state, under Gov. Andrew Cuomo, should have had a plan mapped out weeks ago.

Cuomo argued that changing federal guidelines for vaccine eligibility that lowered the age from 75 to 65 added nearly 2 million people to the eligibility list, which is further stressing supplies. He also said the federal government didn’t release vaccine doses from a federal reserve as promised.

The federal government also dropped the number of vaccines given to the state from 300,000 per week to 250,000.

Need appointment

Appointments to get a vaccine at the new site are required for all to get a shot.

New Yorkers should go online to am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov to find out if they are eligible, and it will direct people to where they can go for an appointment.

Epstein said they are working to accelerate time frames for when people can get vaccinated, but right now, appointments might require several weeks waiting time.

“I join Gov. Cuomo in encouraging New Yorkers to be patient throughout this process and urge our federal government to increase the supply to states immediately,” Epstein said.

“In New York, we’ve come just too far, and we’ve sacrificed too much only to be held back in our efforts by the inadequate vaccination supply by the federal government.”

Other sites

In addition to the Plattsburgh center, sites opened Monday at SUNY Stony Brook on Long Island, Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens and at SUNY Potsdam.

Those sites joined others opened last week at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City, the Westchester County Center, the New York State Fair Expo in Syracuse, Jones Beach on Long Island, the University at Albany and several sites at churches and public housing complexes across the state.

Epstein said that under the direction of the governor, the vaccination network is one of the largest governmental operations in the nation’s history.

Henry said the county was glad to be part of the plan.

“It is very important to have this site here because we are a rural area and a lot of people don’t have access to pharmacies and other places to get the shot,” Henry said.

“So this site is a Godsend for us.”

Plattsburgh International Airport Manager Chris Kreig said airport staff has been working hard to set up the vaccination site.

“This is an all-hands-on-deck effort, and it is a true unity of effort, and there are a lot of moving parts to this operation and it could not be done without the support of everybody that’s here,” he said.

“We’re happy to be here, we’re proud to be here and glad to be supporting the response effort for the North Country.”

How it works

All those wishing to get vaccinated for COVID-19 at the new Plattsburgh site must have an appointment. Those who show up without an appointment will be turned away.

Here are some other points of information about the site at 213 Connecticut Road provided by the state and the Clinton County Health Department:

¯ New Yorkers should go online to am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov — this tool will tell you if you’re eligible, and will direct you to vaccination points in your area to make an appointment.

¯ The supply of vaccines is limited by the federal government — so don’t be surprised if your appointment is one or more months away.

¯ For folks who can’t or don’t want to use the computer, you can call the state’s hotline at 1-833-NYS-4VAX (1-833-697-4829).

¯ Once you have your appointment, the rest is simple — you show up at the right time, you get screened, you get your shot, and then medical professionals watch over you for a bit while you sign up for your second dose.

¯ Then you’re free to go — and come back a few weeks later for your second dose.

¯ Those with appointments will be required to show printed or electronic confirmation of their appointment in order to gain access to the POD (Point of Distribution) site. All 1a or 1b eligible individuals must also show identification issued by their workplace. It must clearly state their name and that they are an eligible 1B worker.

¯ Those 65 years and older must have a valid ID to confirm their age.

¯ Those with appointments should plan to arrive at the intersection of Arizona Avenue and Connecticut Road on the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base. Proof of appointment and eligibility will be required at that checkpoint. Additional direction will be given at that time.

¯ Attendees are asked to wear clothing that allows for easy access to the vaccination site, i.e., short sleeves or sleeves that can be easily rolled or removed.

¯ Unless directed, you will not be required to exit your vehicle.

¯ If you have an appointment, but are sick or not feeling well, please do not come to the POD site. Your appointment can be rescheduled.

To learn more about the COVID-19 vaccination screening process, visit https://on.ny.gov/3ipNxDN.

Residents are asked for continued patience during the vaccine distribution process. As more vaccine becomes available, eligibility will be expanded by the NYSDOH.

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