ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. (WKBW) — In January, 93-year-old Noel and 91-year-old Virginia Record celebrated their 73rd anniversary by driving from Kentucky to Ohio to get their COVID-19 vaccines.
"We're looking forward to people getting vaccinated and getting back to normal where we can once again square dance and have fun again," Noel said.
Can New Yorkers do the same?
Starting March 29th, Ohio will expand vaccine eligibility to all people 16 and older. Pennsylvania is still in Phase 1A of vaccine distribution.
7 Eyewitness News asked New York State officials when it's planning to make the same eligibility expansion and were referred to remarks from Governor Cuomo on March 12.
The President's announcement last night is going to have a major ramification on states' vaccination capacity. He has moved up dramatically the amount of vaccines that are available and that is a good thing obviously. Remember when we started we were talking about June, July, August. The President is now talking about May 1. That means we have to have a tremendous increase in our capacity to vaccinate, and that is a logistical undertaking unlike anything we have done before so we're going to be preparing for that but the President's announcement that May 1 everyone will be eligible for a vaccine, what that means is in New York 15 million people will be eligible and we have to have the capacity to address those people as quickly as possible. Now the President said, it doesn't mean everybody gets a vaccine on May 1, but once you tell people they are eligible, then eligibility suggests, now I should be able to get it and we're going to have to dramatically increase our capacity to do that because we are not at that capacity now.
Those currently eligible in New York: A range of essential workers, those living with comorbidities and those 60 and above.
Could a New Yorker head to Ohio to get their COVID-19 vaccine? The answer is yes, depending on where you book an appointment.
"Having this option for New York State residents to get vaccinated if they're not able to get vaccinated here in New York is really fantastic. I suspect some people will be willing to take advantage of that," Dr. Thomas Russo, professor and chief of infectious disease at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at University at Buffalo, said.
A spokesperson for UC Health, a hospital in Cincinnati, said, “UC Health will offer vaccines to patients who meet the Ohio Department of Health eligibility criteria ... regardless of residence."
The same goes for pharmacies. Kroger, CVS and Walgreens let patients choose where they get their shot.
But it’s different at county health departments. Hamilton County Public Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman said his agency is working to ensure people getting vaccinated either live or work in Hamilton County.
Hamilton County Public Health gets about 500 doses of vaccine per week. The agency’s doses are reserved for county residents; even people who live in Cincinnati, Norwood and Springdale are supposed to go to their city’s health department.
Despite this, Kesterman said his department is hardly looking to turn people away.
" … if somebody is meeting the current phase, and they've made the trouble to get to our clinic, we are working to make sure they can get vaccinated,” Kesterman said.
As New Yorkers wait for the state to expand vaccine eligibility, Ohio is presenting another option for more to get the COVID-19 shot.
"I suspect it's going to happen no later than May 1st, but I'm hoping it'll occur much sooner than that. But in the meantime, for those not eligible, this may be something that will work out for them," Dr. Russo said.