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Distributing vaccines to rural Western New York poses a challenge

COVID-19 vaccine
Posted at 6:02 PM, Mar 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-03 18:02:21-05

WESTERN NEW YORK (WKBW) — Senator George Borrello said the counties of Orleans, Genesee, Wyoming, Cattaraugus, Allegany and Chautauqua, which he represents, have not been allocated enough of the COVID-19 vaccine.

"It's been a disaster. It's been very poorly run. Particularly because the governor has been on this highly politicized roll out campaign. It's been dysfunctional and politically motivated," Borrello said.

Borrello said he can't even find out how many doses are truly coming into the counties.

"We can not get information. There is a total lack of transparency on the vaccine distribution. This is not just for us and state legislators. This is also at the county levels," Borrello said.

"COVID-19 vaccine availability in rural counties continues to be a challenge. Genesee County as a whole has been averaging 500 doses weekly over the past four weeks, which is not meeting the need in our community," Kristine Voos, the public information officer for the Genesee County Health Department, said.

According to the state's COVID-19 vaccine tracker, rural counties in Western New York have less of their population vaccinated than other New York counties with similar populations.

Allegany County has a population of just over 46,000 people. 10% have been vaccinated. Compare that to Franklin County, in Northern New York, that has a population of just over 50,000. Nearly 23% of Franklin County residents have been vaccinated.

Orleans County has a population of around 40,000 with just over 10% have been vaccinated. Essex County, with a similar population, has a vaccination rate of more than 23%, according to state data.

"It certainly appears that Western New York rural counties in particular are not getting an equal share of these doses," Borrello said.

That's why Borrello said Western New York needs more vaccination sites targeting undeserved rural communities.

"We did get some good news that there is going to be a vaccine clinic there, but I'm told it's only about 3,500 doses. That clinic is supposed to serve Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties. Then you see a clinic in the City of Buffalo serving a much smaller population that gets 14,000 doses. It's a huge disparity," Borrello said.

The state said state-FEMA run vaccination sites have been placed to distribute vaccines equitably and efficiently, for Black and Latino communities have been hard hit by COVID-19 and skepticism of the vaccine.

The state also said it's vaccination allotment is controlled by the federal government.

7 Eyewitness News reached out to the state asking why there are discrepancies in the percentage of rural populations that have been vaccinated but did not hear back.