CHAUTAUQUA COUNTY, N.Y. (WKBW) — Thousands more New Yorkers will become eligible to take the COVID-19 vaccine March 17th. Non-profit, government and service workers, like janitors and cleaning staff, who work with the public can book vaccination appointments starting Wednesday.
But these new categories of essential workers pose a challenge for local health departments.
"How are we supposed to discern if someone really meets some of these categories? I don't know all of the 501c3 businesses that exist, and I can't make the call as to if someone is public facing or sits behind the scenes in an office. The onus for this is on the employer and on the person," Chautauqua County Health Director Christine Schuyler said.
Vaccine allocations have increased, but the amount of distributed doses are still not enough to fully vaccinate everyone eligible.
"Once again, we sit here with more people being eligible and still not having enough vaccine. The vaccine supply is increasing. We received a larger allocation this week than we have ever received," Schuyler said.
Schuyler said in the past the county has generally received about 800 doses per week. This week she is expecting more than double that, about 1,700 doses.
"Supply of vaccine coming to our region has doubled in the past month. They're getting more. Niagara County is getting double what they got last week. Erie County is getting a little more," Dr. Nancy Nielsen, the lead for the Western New York Vaccination Planning Team, said.
The Erie County Health Department said it's receiving about 5,000 doses from the state this week.
In addition, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said the state will distribute more than 9,000 doses to pharmacies in Erie County.
Pharmacies will vaccinate teachers and those age 60 and above. As of Wednesday, pharmacies will be the only vaccine distributors with restrictions in place as to who they can vaccinate.
"Now because of this expansion on the 17th, along with that came the direction that we as local health departments can now vaccinate anyone who is eligible which is a big relief on us. It's really been an administrative nightmare to keep all of your allocations separate and clinics separate," Schuyler said.
Now, anyone eligible can be vaccinated at state or county sites.