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Local Phase 1-A vaccination begins

Matt Kelly
The Chronicle-Express

Medical, long term care, and EMS workers prioritized for vaccine rollout

The vaccination clinic at the Yates County auditorium Thursday, Jan. 7 saw 80 medical, long term care, and EMS workers receive their first round of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

PENN YAN – Yates County Public Health held its first coronavirus vaccination clinic Thursday, Jan. 7, in the county building at 417 Liberty St. as part of the initial vaccine rollout in New York state.

"We had a 4 hour event and vaccinated 80 individuals, successfully and without any adverse reactions or complications," said Sara Christensen, Deputy Director of Yates County Public Health. "So it went very well for the first one.”

According to Christensen, the department received 100 doses of the Moderna vaccine. Twenty were given to public health staff and volunteers who were working the vaccination clinic. The remaining 80 doses were administered to local nursing home and long-term care staff, health care workers at dentist offices and pharmacies, and even some midwives. These community members, along with high-risk hospital workers and EMS providers, are included in the current Phase 1A distribution plans established by New York state.

The state is distributing these vaccines through regional centers capable of storing the doses at the necessary cold temperatures. The University of Rochester Medical Center is the distribution hub for the Finger Lakes, transferring the vaccine to hospitals and federally-qualified health centers throughout the region to administer. According to the New York State Department of Health website, "New Yorkers who are more likely to be exposed to the virus, and who are more likely to become seriously ill if they get COVID-19, will be offered the vaccine first." On Jan.5, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that 911,000 vaccines – both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines – would have been distributed to providers by the week's end.

Participants in the Jan. 7 clinic registered ahead of time through a NYSDOH webpage. Communication about the clinic and a registration link were sent specifically to community members eligible under Phase 1A. Yates County Public Health distributed the information by fax and email to all Yates County medical provider offices, local emergency departments, pharmacies and non-medical offices that met the criteria.

This was not the only vaccination opportunity that's been available to eligible individuals in Yates County since rollout began in New York.

Once vaccinated, people waited 15 minutes to determine if any had allergic reactions. None showed any allergic response.

On Monday, Dec. 28, emergency medical service providers from Yates County received the Moderna vaccine at Geneva General Hospital. Registration information initially came from Dr. Matthew Talbott, Director of Emergency Departments at Finger Lakes Health, which includes Geneva General. The information was then passed on to the Penn Yan and Middlesex ambulance corps, as well as all fire department-level EMS captains in Yates County, by Jason Johnson, Director of Operations for the Penn Yan Volunteer Ambulance Corps, and Diane Caves, Deputy Director of Yates County Emergency Services.

Finger Lakes Health did not provide information about who or how many people participated in the Dec. 28 clinic when asked; these questions were referred to the New York State Department of Health, which had not responded by the time this story went to print. However, based on conversations with Johnson and Caves – both of whom received vaccinations – around two dozen EMS providers from Yates County attended the Geneva General clinic.

The vaccine has also been available through Penn Yan Community Health, Mosaic Health in Rushville and F.F. Thompson Hospital in Canandaigua. Upcoming clinics are currently scheduled to take place on Wednesday, Jan. 13 at the Yates County Office Building, and on Thursday, Jan. 14 at Solders and Sailors Memorial Hospital and at Penn Yan Community Health. Pre-registration is required. The registration link and site-specific details can be found at the Public Health website, https://www.yatescounty.org/211/Public-Health.

According to Christensen, Phase 1B vaccinations by Yates County Public Health were anticipated to begin in early February. However, on Friday afternoon, Gov. Cuomo announced that people in Phase 1B could begin scheduling vaccinations on Monday, Jan. 11. According to a tweet from the governor, this next group includes people 75 years and older, education workers, police, firefighters, public transit workers and public safety workers. Anyone who has questions about whether or not they're eligible for vaccination can contact Yates County Public Health by phone at 315-536-5160 or visit https://www.yatescounty.org/211/Public-Health.

All participants at recent clinics received the first of two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine; they will need to return to the same location and receive a second dose of the same vaccine to complete the vaccination process. For the Moderna vaccine, the second dose is given 28 days later; for the Pfizer vaccine, it's given 21 days later.

All participants were informed of the potential effects they might experience after receiving the vaccine. These include soreness at the site of injection on the arm, fatigue, headache, muscle or joint pain, chills, nausea and fever. Such effects are common with vaccines approved for numerous diseases. Participants were also told of the remote possibility of having a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine. All participants were held for 15-20 minutes after receiving their shots to monitor for allergic reactions.

According to documentation provided at the clinics, anyone experiencing a severe allergic reaction should call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. All side effects, regardless of severity, can be reported to the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System website, https://vaers.hhs.gov/reportevent.html.

At the time of publication, Christensen, Johnson and Caves were not aware of any participants from Yates County experiencing severe effects from the vaccination. Both Christensen and Johnson reported that their arms had been a little sore. Caves reported feeling "nasally" and, possibly, tired as a result.

The COVID-19 vaccines are useful because they reduce the possibility that a person will develop symptoms if they are infected, as well as reducing the severity of those symptoms. This will help keep people out of hospitals, prevent deaths and possibly reduce any long-term impacts that COVID-19 might have on a person's health.

It's currently unclear whether or not these vaccines can protect against infection in the first place or prevent transmission of the virus. It also takes several weeks for recipients to build up antibodies and other immune defenses, and both vaccines require two shots spaced three to four weeks apart. Consequently, recipients are advised to continue wearing masks and practicing social distancing after being vaccinated.

Christensen thinks it's very important for public health workers and frontline workers to get vaccinated.

“We would all love this to end," she said, "and the more individuals we can get vaccinated, the better.”

Editor's note: Matt Kelly is an EMS provider with the Branchport Keuka Park Fire Department and was also vaccinated on Monday, Dec. 28. He reported feeling tired and "flu-like" in the evening after receiving the vaccine. But he says that those effects were gone within 48 hours.

In this first round vaccine distribution, Yates County Public Health received 100 doses of the Moderna vaccine.

Upcoming vaccination clinics

Wednesday, Jan. 13

• Yates County Office Building

Thursday, Jan. 14

• Solders and Sailors Memorial Hospital

• Penn Yan Community Health

Pre-registration is required. For registration links and site-specific details, go to https://www.yatescounty.org/211/Public-Health.

On Friday, Jan. 8, Gov. Cuomo announced that people in Phase 1B can begin scheduling vaccinations on Monday, Jan. 11. This includes people 75 years and older, education workers, police, firefighters, public transit workers and public safety workers. Anyone who has questions about whether or not they're eligible for vaccination can contact Yates County Public Health by phone at 315-536-5160 or visit https://www.yatescounty.org/211/Public-Health.