Niagara County is rolling out its COVID-19 vaccine distribution program and will begin administering it to eligible members of the public next week.
Nursing homes and hospitals in Niagara County are already distributing the COVID vaccine through federal and state programs. The county itself will begin its own Point of Dispensing sites, or PODS, beginning next Tuesday. The drive-through operation will first serve healthcare personnel who have direct contact with patients.
“Doctors offices, staff providers from dental offices, EMS - Emergency Medical Services personnel, people who drive the ambulances, paramedics and so on. Firefighters, because of the emergency medical response that they usually are involved in and public health personnel who actually will be doing vaccinations,” said Niagara County Public Health Director Daniel Stapleton.
Eligible persons, Stapleton explained, will be contacted and urged to register. Pre-registation is required and recipients will be informed of the location.
He explained why, when asked about locations, they were limiting that information to those who will participate.
“We want to make sure we're not overrun with people, because it's been experienced in different areas in the state where people just go to the site to be vaccinated when they don't fit the criteria for the priority," he said. "We're being careful with everybody who registers.”
Stapleton estimates about 100 people will be needed for the operation, to ensure those arriving are registered, to help determine whether the candidate has any serious allergy risks and to help monitor those just getting the shot for any potential adverse reactions.
The health department is getting some help. Earlier this week, the Niagara County Legislature voted unanimously to approve the use of $101,458 from its contingency fund to hire part-time staff. They include three firefighter EMTs and 10 paramedics.
“We were optimistic that since New York State has been dictating so much of the vaccination process that they would provide funding to help implement the plan but thus far, we have no indication that such funding is going to happen,” said Dave Godfrey, the legislature’s Community Safety and Security Committee chair, in a prepared statement. “So while it’s a little disconcerting spending half your contingency one week into the year, the fact is there is no better use of county dollars than getting people vaccinated. I will add that as a community, we are very fortunate to have so many trained firefighter EMTs and paramedics who are willing to step into these part-time positions.”