GUEST ESSAY/DR. WAYNE STROUSE: So, how do you get a Covid vaccine?

Dr. Wayne S. Strouse, M.D.

There sure were a lot of questions about the Covid vaccine this week! Whereas in previous weeks, most of the questions seemed to center around what I thought about the vaccine, this week's questions were basically:

1. Am I eligible for a vaccine?

2. Where do I get a vaccine?

If you saw my previous column, you would have seen a picture of me, and my wife getting our vaccines. We are both physicians, and we both see people in person, so we were part of the 1A group. Others in that group included people who live or work in a long-term care facility (also known as a “nursing home”), people who work at hospitals, urgent care centers and doctor's offices, EMS, funeral home workers, and those who perform Covid tests and administer Covid vaccines. The idea was to protect people who are exposed directly to Covid because of their work, and those who are at highest risk of dying or being hospitalized because of Covid. In Yates County, the overwhelming place of death caused by Covid is the nursing home.

In the past two weeks, the vaccine has been available to people in group 1B. This includes people over the age of 65, first responders (firefighters, police), public safety workers, court officers, corrections officers, grocery store workers, child care workers, teachers and other people who work in schools, and public transit workers. This obviously makes the vaccine available to a fairly large number of people, which has caused some of the difficulties that arose recently in getting appointments for vaccinations.

So, where can you get the vaccine in Yates County? The three places that have vaccine clinics up and running are: Yates County Public Health, Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hospital, and Penn Yan Community Health. In addition, Rite Aid in Penn Yan will be giving vaccines in the near future. Before you run down to get in line, you need to know that no one is giving the shots to walk-ins. You MUST register ahead of time and receive an appointment.

So, really, the first two questions are: How can I find out if I am eligible? And how do I register for a vaccine?

Am I eligible?

Go to Yates County Public Health website (yatescounty.org) and click on Covid-19. You will go to a page about Covid. Scroll down until you see a statement: “CLICK HERE for Covid-19 Vaccination Clinic Information”. That takes you to a page about the clinics. Open the page (click on “read on...”). You will see information on the vaccination clinics for Yates County Public Health. There is also a place to click to take you to the New York Department of Health website, where you can access the New York state-run vaccine sites. The Department of Health site also has step-by-step directions of what you need to do. Start with the “Am I Eligible?” app on the site.

How do I register?

You can also check into Rite Aid vaccine availability by going to: https://sr.reportsonline.com/sr/riteaid/NYS2021. If you do not have access to the internet, you can call Public Health at: 315-536-5160, or NY State at: 1-833-NYS-4-VAX (833-697-4829). I have heard that the N.Y. State line is overloaded and you can be on hold for hours.

At the time of this article, the two closest New York state-run sites (in Rochester and Syracuse) reported no appointments available. The Rite Aid site also reported no appointments available. All sites recommend checking in each day. As more vaccine is allocated, they will open up more appointments. Expect to be put on a waiting list at first.

What do I need to bring to the appointment?

You should bring a photo ID, and proof of eligibility (especially if you are eligible because of your job — you'll need an employee ID, a pay stub, or a letter from your employer). You should also bring an insurance card, if you have one. There is no cost for the vaccine, but there may be a small charge for the administration fee, which can be billed to your insurance. It's also a good idea to wear something short-sleeved, since the shot goes into your upper arm.

Why is it so hard to get an appointment for a vaccination?

Basically, when we moved from phase 1A to 1B, we suddenly had millions of New Yorkers eligible for the vaccine. The allocations just haven't kept up. At this time, there are 7 million New Yorkers eligible to receive the vaccine. We received 300,000 doses two weeks ago, and we (as a state) received 250,000 doses last week.

There will certainly be more coming in the future, but at the current rate, it would take 14 months to fully immunize 7 million people. Knowing these numbers, you can understand why everyone is booked up. Last week, Yates County Public Health received 100 doses. There are approximately 25,000 people living in Yates County. Please be patient, and please don't be upset with our local folks — they're doing the best they can with the allocation we receive.

And remember, even if you get the vaccine, you are still not immune until two weeks after the second shot. So, keep on: masking up, washing up, and keeping your distance ... and be safe!

Dr. Wayne S. Strouse, M.D., is a family doctor in Penn Yan.

Dr. Wayne Strouse