Guilderland EMS ready to inoculate against the virus, it’s just missing one thing 

— Photo from the New York State Governor’s Office

A pop-up COVID-19 vaccination site in Brooklyn is typical of those New York State has set up in health-care deserts. Despite receiving the OK from the state to set up its own site, and training its EMTs to administer the vaccine, suburban Guilderland has yet to secure any allotment.

GUILDERLAND — Within just days, perhaps even the first 24 hours, of the state’s Department of Health putting out the call for local communities to step forward and become vaccination sites, Jay Tyler, Guilderland’s emergency medical services director, and Dr. Donald Doynow, the town’s medical director, started the paperwork, said Supervisor Peter Barber.

But for the past four weeks, Tyler has had a problem.

Every time he has put in a request for 100 doses of the vaccine — the minimum amount that can be asked for — the answer has been the same: The super-cold cupboards are bare.

“There’s a shortage, we recognize that,” Barber said, but at some point, the town would like to follow up on the governor’s directive from a month ago: To start administering the vaccine at the local level, because that’s where needs are best known.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has repeatedly said that, under federal guidance, over 7 million New Yorkers are eligible to get vaccinated yet the state is receiving 250,000 doses each week. On Tuesday, Cuomo, who chairs the National Governors Association, said, following a call with the White House, that the federal supply to the states will increase to 20 percent for the next three weeks, up from the initial 16 percent bump when the Biden administration took over.

The town plan would begin by vaccinating Guilderland’s essential workers — paramedics, EMTs, and police officers (many of whom have already received the vaccine, according to Barber, in addition, many town employees have been vaccinated because they are volunteer firefighters) — while also developing a list of stand-bys, senior citizens who could also be vaccinated. 

Barber said the town would then look to reach out to Guilderland schools and others “to basically play a role in it, going forward.”

Asked if the plan for senior citizens would be to travel to them or have the seniors venture to a central location, Barber said, “I think, it would depend.” The program would mostly operate out of the Westmere firehouse, but EMTs would also travel, if necessary, “to congregate settings and whatnot.”

Those congregate settings are also supposed to be vaccinated through a federal program administered by CVS and Walgreens, Barber said, but “we’re not sure how far along they are in that process,” but if the town can, it would like to help out with that program as well.

“The bottom line,” Barber said, “the more people who get vaccinated in their community, the better off we’re all going to be.”

Asked why it was important to have Guilderland’s EMTs certified to administer the vaccine, Barber said that the first reason is because Doynow and Tyler are very dedicated and want the best for the public health and community, and, if it were possible to start to administer the vaccine in Guilderland, it would benefit the town.

The governor may have been talking about major cities signing up for this program, Barber said, but Guilderland is “unique” since its EMS department is “well-qualified” and is currently running a “top-notch” ambulance service. While a  lot of communities rely on volunteer ambulance services, Guilderland is “uniquely blessed” with its full-time EMTs. 

Asked about a vaccine supply ever making it to the town level, Barber said, “I think we’re more hopeful this week than we were last week.” There’s also the sense that there may be more vaccines coming in the not-too-distant future.

But the town can’t even begin to take appointments until it has guaranteed allocations, Barber said, because nothing can be done until Guilderland is “in the program and receiving vaccination at a regular clip.”

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