NIAGARA COUNTY, N.Y. (WKBW) — Each vaccination clinic in Niagara County starts with the hopes for more vaccine. The health department only received 800 first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine this week which they can distribute in just hours at the Kenan Center in Lockport.
"We were expecting the 6,500 doses. But once we knew we weren't getting that, we need to make sure that we're adjusting as quickly as possible. All we care about is that we get the vaccine in arms," Dan Stapleton, the Niagara County Director of Public Health, said.
Niagara County leaders said it's upsetting to see these chairs go empty.
"We can do about 120 persons every 20 minutes. We know our staffing levels. We have our partnerships and our volunteers. We have our resources in place to do it. The only thing we need is vaccine," Elise Pignatora, the Niagara County Director of Public Health Planning and Emergency Preparedness, said.
It's unsettling to people living in Niagara County too.
"They should send them what they say they're going to send, not cut the people short. Don't cut the leadership like Mr. Stapleton and the staff, the people waiting to work short. That's not fair," William McNall, who has received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Kenan Center, said.
After all, they said getting their COVID-19 vaccine here was a very pleasant experience.
"From the first time we were here, the operation was perfect. They could not do any better. The folks were very cordial," McNall said.
Those with vaccine appointments said it took between seven and 10 minutes from the point they walked in the door, got their shot, and returned to their car. That's how Niagara County is able to distribute 2,500 doses a day.
"Truly those that are best positioned for high volume throughput is the local health department," Pignatora said.
Stapleton said, if they were given an unlimited amount of doses, his department could distribute more than 5,000 doses a day at the Transit Drive-In.
"We could do 5,000 just in our clinics and then we could easily vaccinate people outside of our pods at least a few thousand a day," Stapleton said.
Meanwhile, the state has announced a mass vaccination site in Niagara Falls at the Niagara Events Center where they can only distribute 1,000 doses a day. Stapleton says it's frustrating.
"We have the people. We have the infrastructure. We have the volunteers. We just need to get the vaccine," Stapleton said.
Jack Sterne, a spokesperson for the Cuomo administration, said, "Last week, we asked every county how many doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine they could administer if we had unlimited supply — but we were clear that this was a planning exercise and no allocations were guaranteed. It's unfortunate that Niagara County misinformed the public that they would receive these doses."
According to the state's vaccine tracker, just over 18% of the population of Niagara County has received at least one dose. The state average is 20%.