Nassau aiming to curtail COVID-19 vaccine confusion, low administration numbers as access expands
Monday brought a chance for more people to get access to the COVID-19 vaccine, but confusion about what to do and why some facilities have not administered shots is continuing to run rampant.
Monday was the day that the next round of people were set to start receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. But Allied Physicians Group CEO Dr. Kerry Fierstein says it has been a mess.
"We've been passing around information like an underground," says Fierstein.
According to New York state, the people eligible for vaccines as of Jan. 4 are all "out-patient" health care workers, registered nurses, doctors who work in private medical practices and their staff, physical therapists and their staff, and dentists and their staff.
"Everybody is saying this should have been the easiest group," says Fierstein. "We're a captive audience."
To try to smooth out the process, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran announced that starting Tuesday, Northwell Health will begin operating the Island's first "vaccination distribution center" at Nassau Community College.
"Our role is to coordinate the vaccination process, working with everybody else in Long Island, that means working with every hospital, working with government," says Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo also pressed local officials, telling them to make sure hospitals in their region are handing out vaccines that they have.
"I need them to take personal responsibility for their hospitals. This is a management issue at the hospitals," says Cuomo.
A chart shown by Cuomo urged Curran and others to help along the process, indicating that Nassau University Medical Center has only distributed 19% of the vaccine doses it currently has. Curran pointed out that Nassau County doesn't run NUMC, but she did approve the appointment of the hospital's CEO.
"Over the past few days, I've asked them for their plan of action and let them know that our expectation is that we get this vaccine distributed as quickly as possible," says Curran.
The Republican presiding officer of the Nassau Legislature issued a statement saying in part, "The county executive can try to distance herself from NUMC, but she needs to light a fire under the chairman of the board, whom she appointed to run NUMC."
In a statement released by NuHealth CEO Dr. Anthony Boutin, he says the numbers reported were not accurate due to "IT interface issues."
"NUMC was inaccurately noted as of having a 19% vaccination rate. In fact, NUMC has distributed 34% of the vaccines received," says Boutin. "We agree with the governor that this is not an optimal percentage. We have been increasing the availability of scheduling appointments since the second week of receiving vaccines."
Boutin says NUMC is extending vaccination hours to 16 hours per day and they will be available on weekends.
More information on the distribution effort can be found here, via Curran:
Residents can check their eligibility to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the list below. Those who are eligible must make an appointment. Only those who meet the criteria can make an appointment at this time. Appointments must be made online at: www.nassaucountyny.gov/vaccine. The vaccine will be provided for free regardless of insurance or immigration status.
As of Monday, January 4, the following residents meet the criteria to the vaccine as per the New York state prioritization guidance:
- High-risk hospital staff, affiliates, volunteers and contract staff including state-operated Office of Mental Health (OMH) psychiatric centers
- Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Personnel
- Medical Examiners and Coroners
- Funeral workers who have direct contact with infectious material and bodily fluids.
- Health care, other high-risk direct care essential staff and agency staff working in Long Term Care Facilities and long-term, congregate settings overseen by Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) the Office of Mental Health (OMH) and the Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS).
- Residents living in Long Term Care Facilities and in long-term congregate settings overseen by OPWDD, OMH and OASAS
- FQHC staff
- Urgent Care providers
- Any staff administering COVID-19 vaccinations
- All Outpatient/Ambulatory front line, high risk health care providers who provide direct in-person patient care or other staff in a position where they have direct contact with patients, such as receptionists, of any age.
New York state continues to expand the criteria for who can receive the COVID-19 vaccine. For regular updates on who is currently eligible for the vaccine under New York state’s guidance, residents can visit the County’s vaccine website at www.nassaucountyny.gov/vaccine.