After weeks of pleas by local officials, doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are finally beginning to flow to South Fork distribution sites — including more than 1,000 doses that will be available to senior citizens and those with pre-existing health conditions in Southampton on Thursday
Stony Brook Southampton Hospital has been taking appointments for senior citizens and any healthcare workers who have still not received a first dose for Thursday, March 4. Appointments are being made only by the hospital through its web portal and priority lists submitted by local municipalities, not through the state or other online portals.
Hospital officials declined to comment on the details of Thursday’s vaccination clinic beyond what is listed on its website and have not indicated where the POD will be, though the website says that those who receive appointments will be notified of the location. But hospital administrators have encouraged the public to check the vaccination information page on its website, southampton.stonybrookmedicine.edu, for updated appointment availability, as new allocations are being made daily and often come with very short notice.
The hospital has also held several vaccination clinics in communities across the South Fork in recent weeks, administering more than 5,000 doses to healthcare workers and those eligible in the 1b priority group at pop up sites in East Hampton, Hampton Bays and Shelter Island.
East Hampton Town will be administering second doses to the more than 300 local residents, mostly teachers and firefighters, who received their first doses last month. Those came from the first allocation given to the town by the county, for use at the new vaccination site the town set up at the former CDCH school building.
Town officials said they are hopeful that additional doses will be made available to them as well, and has offered the CDCH site for use by the hospital or any other oganization that gets an allotment, but had not been notified of any confirmed allocations as of Wednesday morning.
“We’re hoping to get word soon of another allotment,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said. “We think we could do 1,000 in a day. We worked it out to about five doses per vaccinator, per hour, so we’d probably need 15 vaccinators for a 12 hour day. We are ready for that.”
All appointments for town-allocated doses are being made using the priority list that the town has compiled over recent weeks. Mr. Van Scoyoc said that nobody who shows up at the CDCH building without an appointment on a day when shots are being administered will be allowed onto the property.
The town also launched its own online vaccination portal this week — EHTownVaccine.org — where town residents can submit details about their own eligibility criteria and contact information that the town will use to prioritize shot appointments and reach out to residents when vaccine doses are available.
Mr. Van Scoyoc said the town submitted 400 names from its list to the hospital for Thursday’s vaccination clinic, and will be using the website’s filtering abilities to select the next round of high priority residents when shots are hopefully made available in East Hampton later in the week.
The town will also be sharing its list of priority residents with any and all organizations that get allocations of doses and it’s vaccination website also has links to other portals for making appointments, the supervisor said.
Those who have been battling to get more shots spread into the East End communities say that the releasing of the pressure valve, ever so slightly, is a great relief that will hopefully continue easing.
“It does seem that we are turning a corner,” state Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. said of the flow of vaccine shots to the East End on Tuesday, the day that President Joe Biden announced that the country is on track to have enough doses for every adult by the end of May and a day after New York State said it would be getting more than 160,000 doses of the newly approve Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccine. “After all the screaming we did, we were promised more supply, and now it’s arriving, finally.”
One major bottleneck in the distribution effort was lifted by the state Department of Health earlier this week when it said that shots allocated to Suffolk County for distribution could be used for those over the age of 65 and suffering from co-morbidities. Previously, county allocations could only be used to vaccinate essential workers, a large but more difficult to muster cohort of people, while seniors and those with pre-existing health conditions struggled to find vaccination appointments that did not require long trips to vaccination sites in Stony Brook, Jones Beach or New York City.
The number of doses being allocated to small local pharmacies and doctors’ offices is still only a small portion of the overall allocation, however. As the municipal priority lists are whittled down, getting shots to those outlets that have additional contact lists and can bring shots into the local communities will be a key component to ramping up vaccinations, officials say.
There have been shots trickling in through other outlets as well. Walgreens and CVS pharmacies are getting small but steady allocations of doses earmarked for senior citizens, and local residents have reported finding easier paths to getting appointments — if one is savvy enough with online portals to navigate the various appointment websites.
Southampton Village Mayor Jesse Warren said that his office is offering assistance to any seniors who have not mastered the online appointment systems and has continued directing local seniors to appointments that become available at the Sun River Health clinic in the Meeting House medical village. After a story last week spotlighted a 99-year old Navy veteran, Stanley Dykovitz, who is unable to travel a long distance to get a shot, Mr. Warren said the village got him an appointment to get a shot in Southampton through Sun River.
“We sent out a letter to every resident 75 and over, so everyone should be on the lookout for that and get in touch with us so we can give their names to the providers with the vaccines,” Mr. Warren said. “If someone calls, we will help them look online also and we can help them fill out the paperwork for appointments. Just call Village Hall and ask for the mayor’s office.”