Pop up clinic to reach underserved, but Falls mayor ineligible, gets vaccine

Falls mayor receives vaccine as show of support
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Posted at 6:19 PM, Feb 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-24 17:16:42-05

NIAGARA FALLS, NY (WKBW) — Pop up COVID vaccination clinics opened in Buffalo, Lackawanna and Niagara Falls the sites were set up in what the state deems "underserved neighborhoods."

But the mayor of the City of Niagara Falls rolled up his sleeve for a shot even though he is not eligible.

Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino got the vaccine at the clinic.

Mayor Robert Restaino got the vaccine inside the pop up clinic at the Wrobel Towers, a public housing complex.

But the mayor is not in the Phase 1A or 1B group. So how did he quality when so many people who are over the age of 65 can't even get an appointment?

His office says the mayor and Housing Authority executive director Clifford Scott quote"were invited to be vaccinated as a show of their support in the effort to get everyone vaccinated as more supplies become available."

We captured Scott as he received his vaccine Thursday.

Speaking at the clinic as residents arrived for their vaccine, Restaino told reporters they are working to make sure there is equity throughout the community.

Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino talked about access for residents.

“Across the board — the residents of the City of Niagara Falls can take advantage of this lifesaving vaccine,” Restaino said.

The Niagara Falls ‘pop up’ clinic is designed to reach those of color, but you couldn't just show up for an appointment, something Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, which helped run the clinic, wouldn't even tell us until Thursday afternoon.

Medical Center president & ceo Joseph Ruffalo says all 300 who will be vaccinated Thursday and Friday were pre-selected and scheduled at both the Wrobel Towers and at a second site, Doris Jones Family Resource Building.

Medical Center president & ceo Joseph Ruffalo explains appointment process.

“If we were to put the appointment schedule — on the New York State website — those 300 slots would have been taken probably in 60 minutes and probably three quarters of that population probably would not even reside in this area,” Ruffalo explained.

For Falls residents, like Robert Straub, who got the call, it was welcomed news.

Niagara Falls resident Robert Straub received his vaccine.

“Well, I’ve been asking about it all along, but they contacted me and told me it was time,” Straub replied.

Straub said he has been eager to receive the vaccine.

“I couldn’t wait to get it,” Straub stated.

Falls resident Teddy William says he was trying to book an appointment and was thankful he was selected.

“But I wanted to get it done because — you never know — you know what I mean — this is no joke,” William declared.

Niagara Falls resident Teddy William receives his vaccine.

William said he is not worried about getting the vaccine or side effects.

“I really think this is a good thing,” William said.

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Outside the Belle Center Thursday morning.

In the City of Buffalo those eligible for the vaccine lined up outside the Belle Center on the west side hoping to vaccinated.

“Oh my god — I’m so excited about it. I am an absolutely vaccine believer,” remarked Yves-Richard Blanc.

State Senator Sean Ryan noted this pop up centers are designed to reach "hard to reach" populations bringing health care right to their door.

“This is sort of a come as you are — we want people to get appointments but if you don't have them people from the neighborhood are walking in as word of mouth spreads,” Ryan said.

Inside the Belle Center Thursday.

“Remember, this event is not aimed at somebody who lives in Alden. This event is aimed at somebody who can walk to this site in ten minutes," Ryan said.

Kay Diffley of Buffalo also showed up at the Bell Center without an appointment, hoping to get the shot.

“I’m with my friends and we’ve all been trying and trying — it’s been next to impossible,” Diffley described.

A second pop up clinic will occur Friday at the housing complex again with another 150 residents expected to receive the vaccine.