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20,000 emails about COVID-19 vaccines between Erie County's top officials

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Posted at 6:48 AM, Jan 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-12 09:05:57-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — With New York State making COVID vaccines available to more people, so many of you are reaching out to us with questions. You're looking for answers about who is now eligible for a vaccine, where can you get one and how you register for an appointment.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz tweeted, there is much more demand for a COVID19 vaccine than what Erie County has to distribute. Now, Erie County is working to get additional doses from New York State.

As part of this latest phase of vaccine distribution-- Phase 1B-- some grocery store workers, teachers in grades preschool through 12, in person college educators and some child care providers are eligible to get the vaccine. Many more people are included in this category.

But Poloncarz says it will take months to work through phase 1A-- which includes frontline healthcare workers-- and this latest group included in distribution.

The 7 Eyewitness News I-Team has discovered, there are nearly 20,000 emails sent between Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Bursten and other top staffers, between July 1 and the beginning of this month. These emails are related to the COVID-19 vaccine.

We don't know what the contents of those messages show because they have not yet been released to the I-Team. In fact, an Erie County attorney said it would take months to sift through each of those emails to see if anything needed to be redacted. We've since narrowed our scope of this request for emails; looking for messages sent between December and January.

The I-Team is looking for information specifically about COVID-19 vaccine distribution, including early plans for distribution and priorities, along with COVID-19 Vaccine distribution centers and locations.

While Erie County's lawyers are now reviewing those emails, Erie County is refusing to release information about locations for vaccine distribution, out of fear that "publishing the [Point of Distribution] location will attract people who are not yet eligible."

If you are eligible to get the first round of vaccine, you must fill out a vaccine form to certify that you are part of those eligible groups. We've got that form for you, here.