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Erie Co. residents travel to Rochester and beyond for the vaccine

Posted at 12:01 AM, Feb 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-16 00:03:55-05

BUFFAL, N.Y. (WKBW) — Several 7 Eyewitness News viewers have commented on Facebook that they are going to Rochester for the COVID-19 vaccine, some said they will travel to Syracuse. They said the state-run University at Buffalo South campus vaccination site has no appointments available every time they check.

“I was very shocked that UB didn’t have any appointments available,” said Rene Tylec of Buffalo.

Tylec said she'll monitor the site several times a day to try and get an appointment closer to home.

“It’s very difficult," Tylec said. "I would have to take a day off, and there was no weekend appointments available, and so it was just a little frustrating.”

Late Monday evening, the closest open appointment to Buffalo on the state's website was the NYS Fairgrounds in Syracuse.

The New York State Department of Health said it allocates doses based on regional population, and that sites are spread across the state so New Yorkers have equal access.

Leslie Bardak of Amherst falls under the underlying conditions category like Tylec. Bardak's appointment is in Rochester at the end of March.

“I was looking last week, just to try to sort of familiarize myself with how to navigate the system. I haven’t seen Buffalo open up with an appointment available at all, so I was specifically looking for Rochester,” Bardak said.

Amanda Lang said she's tried for weeks to get an appointment for her 80 year old grandmother. Her grandmother lives on Grand Island, Lang was able to get an appointment for her in Rochester.

"I woke up at 5:30 in the morning so I could find one for her," Lang said via Facebook. "There’s nothing available here in Buffalo. Not at rite aid, tops, Walgreens, CVS. I started the search the day appointments were available to be scheduled. It’s been a nightmare. If she didn’t have me to help her she wouldn’t have been able to get an appointment at all. I feel bad for seniors that aren’t able to get help."

The NYSDOH said the goal of a site is to vaccinate people in that region, but the goal is to get shots in arms quickly and efficiently.

"At the end of the day, however, our goal is to get shots in arms as quickly and efficiently as possible – if New Yorkers in one area are not booking all available appointments, and someone is willing to travel to get a shot, that only reflects the woefully inadequate supply of vaccines we received from the Trump Administration," said spokesperson Jill Montag. "Thankfully, we have already begun to see some progress under the Biden Administration – less than a month after he was sworn in as President."

“It’s an easy drive, it’s right off the thruway," Bardak said. "Hoping that the weather doesn’t play a part in that because if the weather’s bad, I don’t know what I’ll do. If its blizzarding, I may not go.”

Tylec said if the UB South site continues to be booked, she will make the trip to Rochester.

“The only part that really concerns me is you gotta then do it a second time because it’s in two doses,”she said.

NYSDOH said about 75% of the more than 1 million appointments at its sites come from people in the respective regions. The Erie County Health Department said most of the people it vaccinates are from Erie and the surrounding counties.

"Vaccine demand is strong and vaccine supply is very limited," said ECDOH spokesperson Kara Kane. "Our department is encouraged by the enthusiasm about the COVID-19 vaccine and we are looking forward to having supply available to meet this demand."

The county is currently vaccinating people whose appointments were canceled in January due to a lack of supply, and people who are receiving second doses.