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Why Allegany County has the lowest vaccination rate in New York

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Posted at 5:37 PM, May 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-13 22:33:35-04

ALLEGANY COUNTY, N.Y. (WKBW) — Allegany County has the lowest vaccination rate in the state with 32.3% receiving at least one dose as of May 13th.

"It's a hard slog now. It's not like it was when we didn't have enough vaccine for people who want it. Now we have the vaccine but we need the people to come in," Dr. Nancy Nielsen, the lead for the Western New York Vaccination Planning Team, said.

With the lowest vaccination rate in the state, the Allegany County Department of Health said it's working to increase access to the vaccine with pop-up clinics in areas with low vaccine rates. But regardless, the Department of Health and staff at Jones Memorial Hospital in Wellsville said vaccine hesitancy is hitting Allegany County hard.

"They want to wait and see. The vaccine is too new. Also they're getting information on the internet and hearsay believing myths and untruths about the vaccine. Lack of trust in the government. I've already had COVID," Eva Benedict, the president and CEO of Jones Memorial Hospital, said.

But hospital staff said there is no time to wait. COVID admissions are increasing even among children.

"Unfortunately we're seeing an uptick now with the highest amount of COVID patients we've had in months," Benedict said.

"We are seeing more and more infant children who are needing hospitalization and ICU stays. With the mutating virus, it's becoming more of an issue. Just recently we had children who needed ICU stays," Dr. Zahi Kassas, the chief of pediatrics at Jones Memorial Hospital, said.

The Allegany Department of Health said there are three reasons people are not getting vaccinated just yet - they want to wait and see, they do not have access to the vaccine or they simply say it's their right not to take it. Jones Memorial Hospital staff is concerned about the hospital becoming overwhelmed if more don't take the vaccine.

"It's a very concerning possibility and likely a reality if we can't get our vaccination rate up because it's just going to spread," Benedict said.