Erie County forced to cancel thousands of vaccine appointments due to low supply


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz announced Tuesday the county had to cancel thousands of vaccine appointments for the next few days after seeing a huge drop in allocations from the state.

Officials now say this could lead to more cancelations and have even stopped scheduling for next month.

“We are at the mercy of the allocation we receive,” Poloncarz said.

At this point, Erie County has vaccinated more than 14-thousand people since receiving the first COVID vaccine shipment last month. But the health department is now having to pump the breaks after officials say allocations from the state have dropped significantly due to the federal vaccine shortage. This has led to dozens of local appointments getting canceled.

“We’re going to prioritize those who had vaccination appointments canceled. We will attempt to vaccinate those individuals with their first dose in the early weeks of February. We are not going to schedule those until we know we have sufficient doses on hand,” said the Erie County executive.

But it’s unclear when sufficient doses will come in. Erie County health commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein says her department may be forced to cancel next week’s appointments as well.

“If we don’t receive the doses we’ve requested from the state because they haven’t received the doses they’ve requested from the gov, from the federal government.”

On Tuesday, County Legislature Minority Leader Joseph Lorigo called the rollout a disaster and sent a letter to Erie County Legislature Chairwoman April Baskin and Health and Human Services Committee Chairwoman Lisa Chimera, asking local leaders to do more.

“The vaccine rollout in New York State is extremely delayed and it could be up to seven months before the first priority recipients get their vaccine. The Erie County Legislature has a health and human services committee that should be overseeing the county’s response to COVID-19 and our vaccination efforts, we haven’t had an official meeting of that committee since November 12.”

Lorigo says with so many issues during the vaccine rollout so far – especially with the recent appointment cancellations – holding a meeting will help answer questions Erie county residents may have.

“A day doesn’t go by where I don’t receive an email or a phone call from someone saying ‘hey, what’s happening with the vaccine rollout, or what’s going on with this covid related issue.The best way for me to get those questions answered is through a formal health and human services committee meeting where we can talk, not only to the health commissioner, but also our commissioner of emergency services, and we haven’t had one of those in months.”

During Tuesday’s briefing, Poloncarz also announced anyone who is scheduled to receive their second vaccine should be fine, the state is sending specific doses for that. He also says other agencies, like pharmacies, will be holding vaccine clinics for the time being.

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