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Western New York county public health directors discuss how vaccination rollout can be improved

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Posted at 11:00 AM, Apr 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-16 17:10:49-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Public Health Departments have had pandemic response plans for decades. The departments update these plans yearly and submit them to the state. Health directors said the state decided to not use those plans pertaining to vaccine distribution for the COVID-19 pandemic.

"If our plans that we submit every year had been followed, I believe the vaccine roll out would have gone a lot smoother than it has," Niagara County Public Health Director Dan Stapleton said.

"Unfortunately, the state went a different path on the initial roll out which I think resulted in a very slow and cumbersome process. It was very confusing for our residents none the less us," Paul Pettit, the public health director for Orleans County and Genesee County, said.

Supply has also been an issue.

"Unfortunately, supply has not been able to meet the demand so far. We're still limited by the supply. However, that's a global issue," Dr. Gale Burstein, the health commissioner for Erie County, said.

"However, we are being allocated a much larger number of vaccines than we were in the beginning. We're starting to remove some residents on our waiting list off of our waiting list due to the larger amount of vaccines that are being allocated to our area," Dr. Kevin Watkins, the public health director for Cattaraugus County, said.

As allotments increase, some Western New York Public Health Directors said they wish the state would give them doses to distribute themselves.

"Part of that is knowing who is where in our communities and what strategies we need to use locally. That really was overlooked by the state. We're still struggling with that," Chautauqua County Public Health Director Christine Schuyler said.

These health directors said they have more knowledge of their county than the state because it's their job to know the communities who need the most help accessing the vaccine.

"We know our communities better than they do. I think all of us on this call can identify areas that are under-served already in our county. We'd like to have the resources to be able to go there and provide that vaccine," Stapleton said.

"At one time it was said there was a failure of the public health system in New York State and that's absolutely false. There's a failure to use the public health system in New York State," Schuyler said.