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Storm delays vaccine shipments

A recent winter storm delayed this week’s coronavirus vaccine shipments to Franklin and Essex counties.

Both county health departments were prepared to set up “PODs” this week — or points of distribution, essentially a vaccine clinic — where staffers would administer the 200 vaccine doses each county was set to receive. Those vaccines were largely earmarked for essential workers, and those with underlying health issues, a newly eligible part of the population.

“We expect to receive (the doses) but at present time do not have a tracking number so cannot hold a POD without the vaccine,” Franklin County Manager Donna Kissane wrote in an email.

Essex County Health Department Program Coordinator Andrea Whitmarsh said the department is hoping to receive its shipment within the next few days. She noted that the department is still planning to host a POD together with Franklin County Public Health and North Country Community College in Saranac Lake next week.

This kind of delay is happening all across the country this week, the latest of many hurdles in this historic vaccine rollout effort.

“Some of the deliveries from the federal government of the allocations may be delayed this week because of storms across the country,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters on Wednesday. “They made that clear on the White House call this week, and we are experiencing that. Not storms in New York, but storms at the transportation hubs. We also have the potential of storms in New York starting tomorrow, lasting into Friday. This is a set of storms moving across the country and the state is acting appropriately, but these are serious storms and people should take them seriously.”

In the North Country, where heavy snowfall is a regular fact of life, this kind of hurdle was expected. Essex County Public Health Director Linda Beers, in an interview with the Lake Placid News last year, noted that weather conditions could be a factor as health departments such as hers mobilize to vaccinate residents against COVID-19.

Kinney Drugs, a pharmacy chain tasked with distributing vaccines to people over 65 in the North Country, appears to have gotten its doses. The Gouverneur-based company announced Thursday that its second-dose vaccine appointments would be held as scheduled at all four planned locations: Lyons, Watertown, Syracuse and Gouverneur.

“Please be assured that if you are scheduled to receive your second dose this weekend, we are prepared,” John Marraffa, vice president of health care services integration at Kinney Drugs, said in a statement.

The U.S. continues to contend with a lack of vaccine supply. President Joseph Biden’s administration announced last week that 200 million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine would be delivered by the end of this summer, pushing the total number of doses to 600 million — enough to vaccinate every American adult, according to the New York Times. That doesn’t necessarily mean many Americans will have been vaccinated by then, however.

Right now, on average, 1.5 million doses of the vaccine are being administered across the U.S. each day, according to the Times. Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require two shots.

An analysis from the Times shows that based on the current speed of vaccine administration across the country, and provided the announced supply boost comes to fruition, about half of the U.S. population would be at least partially vaccinated by early July. Public health experts have said about 70% to 90% of the population would need to become resistant against the coronavirus — either through vaccination or past infection — to achieve herd immunity.

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