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County Health Director: Rush For Vaccine Slowing Down

Chautauqua County has a goal of getting 75% of residents vaccinated. So far they are well on their way, however vaccine hesitancy may slow things.

During the County Legislature’s Human Services Committee meeting Wednesday, Christine Schuyler, county public health director and commissioner of Social Services, gave an update on how the vaccine rollout is going and challenges they’re facing.

According to Schuyler, about 43% of eligible residents have received their first-dose vaccination which is about 35% of total residents. Through April 17, about 31% of eligible residents and 25% of all county residents are fully vaccinated.

Bree Agett, an epidemiologist with the county health department noted that there was a rush of people who originally sought the vaccine. “Most people who want it have gotten it and now we’re moving into more education and doing smaller clinics and working on making it accessible for those people who haven’t had an opportunity to yet,” she said.

Agett has also been tracking by race who is getting the vaccine. She said so far 39% of whites, 31% of Blacks, 53% of Native Americans, and 41% of Hispanics have. She added that the numbers may not be truly accurate because not everyone who gets a COVID vaccine lists what their ethnicity is. “We’re trying to do our best to make sure that this vaccine is truly equitably distributed in our community,” she said.

The county hadn’t received a lot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine before it was put on hold. Agett said some people may have been holding out for that vaccine, since it only takes one shot, versus the two shots required for Moderna and Pfizer. An announcement may be made Friday by the federal government on the future of the J&J vaccine.

Schuyler said the fact that the government put the J&J vaccine on pause after less than one in 1 million cases of blood clots shows that they’re taking safety very seriously. “These vaccines have gone through strenuous clinical trials to be brought to market. It happened quickly but not in haste. The vaccines, the technology behind them, has been at work for decades,” she said.

Schuyler said they’re doing whatever they can to make the vaccine available, including making it available without an appointment. “There’s a segment of the population that just isn’t good at scheduling things. But if they see a sign or if they know it’s a walk-in availability and works into their schedule that day they’re going to get their vaccine,” she said.

Schuyler noted that if the county wants to get back to “normal” residents need to get vaccinated. “There are more freedoms when you are fully vaccinated. It’s important not just for health reasons, but we need to get our economy back where we were. We need to get our social lives back where they were,” she said.

She encouraged everyone who hasn’t gotten the vaccine to the research and talk to their healthcare providers. “Until we have that substantial portion of our population vaccinated we’re not going to be able to get back to not wearing masks, having restrictions on our businesses, on our social gatherings and in our lives because the virus will circulate,” she said.

Schuyler said she is hopeful that by the fall there are fewer if any restrictions on schools and gatherings but that all depends on residents willing to get vaccinated. “That timeline is not at my discretion,” she said.

NEW CASES CONTINUE

New daily confirmed cases of COVID-19 remain in the double-digits in the county, but hospitalizations have largely stayed the same.

The county Health Department recorded 26 new cases on Wednesday, which includes information collected the previous day. The cases break down as follows: seven in the Fredonia zip code, three in

Dunkirk, two each in Jamestown, Brocton, Frewsburg and Lakewood, and one each in Silver Creek, Cassadaga, Chautauqua, Kennedy, Mayville, Panama, Sinclairville and Westfield.

A key measure in tracking COVID has been those with the virus in the hospital. In Chautauqua County, there have been about 12 hospitalizations reported for the last week. Entering April, there were five people in the hospital, though not necessarily because of the coronavirus.

The number remained below 10 for most of March, and is down from the nearly 30 reported in February.

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