The KeyBank Center downtown will host a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic for people over 65 years of age next week, becoming the third large-scale distribution point in Erie County.
The site, which will begin operations on March 10, will at first offer vaccines to those who have already registered through the county’s website; walk-ins will not be accepted.
It is expected to offer 1,000 vaccines a day inside the hockey arena's Lexus Club, on the 100 level off the main lobby pavilion. Generally used for catered events, the space seats 400.
"This site is well-placed to serve the City of Buffalo and all of Erie County, and as more vaccines become available we will be able to increase operations here,” said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz in a prepared statement that thanked Buffalo Sabres management for making the site available.
He later said the site is also very accessible.
"This is a site that’s easy to get to. You’ll be able to park in the Harborcenter parking lot and cross the bridge from Harborcenter straight into the arena, in which you will be able to get a dose at the Lexus Club," Poloncarz said. "It is right on public transportation lines -- not only bus lines, but of course the rapid transit Metro train and its station right there."
The announcement did not specify operating hours.
KeyBank Center joins county vaccination sites at SUNY Erie Community College North and South campuses. It does not replace the eventual plans for a 24-hour-a day state-run vaccination site being eventually established at the Buffalo Convention Center with assistance from the National Guard at a tentative date in May.
Poloncarz has repeatedly pointed out there was no real need for mass vaccination sites until now because there just wasn’t enough vaccine. That has suddenly changed, with more than 7,200 coming to the county Health Department just this week. Half of those doses are designated for those over age 65, like the crowd at ECC North Thursday.
And he said, more is on the way.
"We are expecting that all the providers that are giving vaccinations in Erie County in upcoming weeks -- which includes the County Health Department, the state, pharmacies, doctor’s offices, hospitals -- will receive more than 20,000 total doses this week," he said. "It wasn’t that long ago where every dose that was coming into the county was approximately 6,000."
Poloncarz said mass vaccination sites are using two-dose shots, while one-dose vaccine shots are being reserved for those who are homebound.