When eligibility for the COVID-19 availability expanded to include Phase 1B, demand abruptly outweighed supply in Orange County and New York State as a whole.
According to the New York State website, seven million New Yorkers are now eligible, but the state only receives 300,000 doses each week from the federal government.
A lack of consistency
Orange County puts in vaccine requests to the state weekly - but does not know how many doses the county will receive week to week.
County officials and local hospitals, including Garnet Health Medical Center in Middletown and St. Anthony Community Hospital in Warwick, have been directing individuals to ny.gov/vaccine or the state vaccination hotline (1-833-697-4829) to find an appointment.
Up until Thursday afternoon, both the hotline and ny.gov/vaccine led individuals to information about local availability - which was scarce.
But as the state started unrolling its state-run vaccination sites (none of which are in Orange County), information about local availability was taken down from ny.gov/vaccine and the hotline - both of which now state that they are both being used to place appointments at state-run facilities only.
According to a representative from the Orange County Executive’s office, this is a mistake on the state’s end - and Orange County has urged the state to update the site to account for local availability.
As of Friday morning, this is still the case online and via the hotline.
All Orange County hospitals, Cornerstone Family Healthcare and Orange County’s Department of health are expected to receive additional doses, but as of right now, there is no streamlined place to call or check for availability locally.
Cornerstone Family Healthcare is using a waiting list to distribute vaccines to eligible individuals as they become available. To get on Cornerstone’s waiting list, call: 845-563-8000
A spokesperson for Garnet Health Medical Center said they will be posting to social media when they have new vaccination appointments available.
‘How (are) these shortcomings ... even remotely possible?’
Meanwhile, state Sen. James Skoufis said Friday that he was calling on the governor and the state health commissioner to immediately evaluate the situation in Orange, Rockland and Ulster counties, develop a strategy to improve the distribution of vaccines to counties with the longest per capita waitlists and highest rates of infection and standardize the far-too-confusing appointment process.
“Local providers continue to tell me that communication with the Department of Health is often like speaking to a brick wall,” Skoufis said. “Constituents, meanwhile, are being left in the dark as they call around to the vaccine hotline, local counties, medical practitioners, pharmacies, and state legislators for answers. How these shortcomings are even remotely possible given the lead-time that the state had to prepare is difficult to fathom.”
An extra hurdle
The vaccination hotline regularly leads to a prerecorded message regarding high call volume. And starting Thursday, it switched to providing information about available appointments at state-run facilities only - if users could get through at all.
This has made it nearly impossible for those without access to the internet, or those who are unable to use a computer - including many high-risk elderly individuals - to make an appointment.
County Executive Steve Neuhaus directed individuals who are unable to check for an appointment online to call the Orange County Office of the Aging for assistance: 845-615-3700
Finding an appointment
As of right now, individuals are still being directed to ny.gov/vaccine to find available appointments. At ny.gov/vaccine, click on the “Am I Eligible” link and fill out the form. This then leads to a listing of providers offering vaccinations, along with how to make an appointment at each.
The below links for local hospitals are also expected to be updated by the state as these locations get more doses. However, they frequently crash or state that there are “No Events Available.”
Middletown - Garnet Health Medical Center: www.bit.ly/garnet21
Warwick - St. Anthony Community Hospital: www.bit.ly/stanthony21
Kingston - Kate Walton Field House: www.bit.ly/kingston21
Newburgh - Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall: www.bit.ly/stlukes21
Port Jervis - Bon Secours Community Hospital: www.bit.ly/bonsecours21
Suffern - Good Samaritan Hospital: www.bit.ly/goodsam21
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.