NIAGARA COUNTY, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Niagara County Health Department has had a mass vaccination plan in place for decades.
"I have dedicated professionals, staff, volunteers. The partners we have are ready to roll. We're prepared. We can never be more prepared than we are right now. We need the vaccine to be able to put this in action," Dan Stapleton, the Niagara County Health Director, said.
Stapleton says the most difficult part of distributing the COVID-19 vaccine is actually getting enough doses.
"We have the staff. We have the resources to do it. We just need to make sure we get the vaccine, and that's very difficult to come by," Stapleton said.
While Stapleton said Niagara County has the capacity to vaccinate thousands of people in just a few days, it does not have the doses.
Unlike Erie County, Stapleton said the Niagara County Health Department hasn't had to cancel any appointments. He said it comes down to striking a careful balance between scheduling and supply.
"The worst thing they can do in the public's eyes is to let them know they are scheduled to receive a vaccine that can save their lives, and then cancel that because we don't have adequate supplies of vaccine," Stapleton said.
When you are eligible, you register on the New York State Health Department's website. Next, you make an appointment online. Then, you come to the point of distribution. This week it's the Transit Drive In. You don't even have to get out of your car, which makes the process pretty quick.
"From start to finish it took like 10 minutes. 10 to 15 minutes. It was really quick," Hailey Stapleton, a pharmacist, said.
Once you get your shot, you pull into a separate area for 15 minutes of observation just to make sure no one has a reaction to the vaccine.
"That's it! Super easy. Highly Reccomend," Hailey said.
"Doing this outside through the drive through is efficient in terms of getting people through but it's very difficult for the staff," Stapleton said.
The Western New York weather has posed a challenge, so Stapleton said next week they'll have to take the point of distribution inside.
"The Kenan Arena in Lockport is offering us their facility to use at no charge. We can not do this without partners like that. We're forever grateful for that," Stapleton said.
While the general public is not yet eligible to take the vaccine, Stapleton said you can be proactive while you wait by getting your flu shot.
"The flu shot will allow them to have a stronger immune system which will allow them to take up the COVID vaccine and strengthen their own immune system even better," Stapleton said.