EDITORIAL: Who’s in charge here?

IT’S CONFUSING. It’s frightening. It feels so unfair. This is not what we were led to expect. We need someone to blame. But by now he’s left the building.

Last week the chairman of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors and the supervisor of the Town of Stockport, Matt Murell (R), blasted Governor Andrew Cuomo for his handling of efforts to vaccinate millions of New York residents to protect them from Covid-19.

Don’t blame Mr. Murell for venting frustration. He’s right. There isn’t enough vaccine available to meet the demand. State government has to manage distribution of the shots statewide. Jack Mabb, director of the county Department of Health said this week, right now signing up for a vaccination is a lot like playing the lottery. And yet over five different clinics since January 2, the department has administered shots for 1,213 people.

There are roughly 60,000 residents of Columbia County and the vaccine isn’t yet approved for children. But there’s still a long way to go and a strong demand for the vaccine, which arrives in dry-ice cocoons. The county plans to vaccinate another 400 seniors soon.

My wife, who meets the eligibility for members of the public, saw the notice of the vaccinations at Columbia–Greene Community College (CGCC). She applied for an online vaccination “ticket.” Bingo! She got one.

I’m a couple of years shy of 75. So I figured I’d wait my turn. But then, like magic, the governor recently lowered the age to 65. That makes a lot more people eligible, including me. Yes! Nothing left to do but make an appointment at one of the state PODs (points of dispensing). Let’s see… no local appointments left this month, nothing in February… click click click, full in March, too. How about April? Nope. They’re not yet scheduling April. Reportedly, the state website can’t yet handle the load.

At a different online page I see that Albany’s full. The nearest site with appointments is Plattsburgh…maybe seven hours in the car round trip unless it’s snowing and it will be snowing in April in Plattsburgh. I’d have to return for the second dose. I’m hoping somewhere closer will pop up.

You can see what got Chairman Murell worked up. It’s easy to conclude that the governor made the confusion worse. Or it does until you consider that the federal government—under the Trump administration—reduced the number of vaccine doses it promised the state. And it turns out that the administration may not have purchased as many doses as it claimed.

My wife received her first dose of the vaccine last week at Columbia-Greene Community College POD run by the county health department. The length of the line outside the gym varied from 25 to 45 not-so-young people. It moved steadily with room for social distancing. Everyone I saw wore a mask. We left the parking lot about 45 minutes after we arrived. They keep people for up to half an hour to be sure there’s no allergic reaction. It was efficient; the staff was friendly. These are our neighbors helping save our lives.

A pandemic confronts us with multiple challenges. The rapid development of vaccines, which the Trump administration did fund, is just part of it. There should be a single website but it takes time to work out the bugs in any complex system. These obstacles trigger anger and impatience in all of us. But the system is working. It will improve.

The next advances are in the hands of the new administration in Washington. President Biden has pledged to take on the virus at the level of intensity scientists tell us is needed to effectively control the disease.

It will take time. There will be setbacks. We need patience. Get the vaccine. Immunity to this virus is a statement of hope. I’ll see you in line.

Here’s the county health department website:

www.columbiacountynyhealth.com/news/covid-19-vaccine-information

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