After weeks of lobbying by local elected officials, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an Executive Order Friday, Feb. 26 that will finally permit county health departments to provide the Covid-19 vaccine at their distribution locations to senior citizens over the age of 65.
“Previously, they were inexplicably prohibited from vaccinating seniors. This is a major shift in providing the vaccine to older and more vulnerable New Yorkers and East End residents,” said State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, who announced the change on March 1. “We still need a greater supply of vaccine from the federal government to meet the needs of all eligible New Yorkers who want the vaccine. Hopefully, in coming weeks that supply will continue to increase.”
Mr. Thiele said Suffolk County, which has sites at all three campuses of Suffolk County Community College, in Riverhead, Selden and Brentwood, and at other pop-up sites throughout the county, is allowing seniors to pre-register to receive the vaccine by calling the county’s 311 system by dialing “311” from inside Suffolk County, or by dialing 631.853.6311 from phone numbers outside the 631 area code, or by emailing the county at CommunityImmunity@suffolkcountyny.gov.
Those eligible with comorbidities can also pre-register by email. Those seeking appointments at the state sites such as Stony Brook University or Jones Beach must still use the “Am I Eligible” tool online at the NYS Department of Health website.
The Suffolk County Department of Health Services has hosted several pop-up vaccination sites in recent weeks, and provided vaccines for a pop-up site at the former Child Development Center of the Hamptons in Wainscott. But up until now, seniors were unable to receive vaccines at those sites, which were required to vaccinate frontline workers.
“On Jan. 14, I issued a statement highly critical of New York State’s vaccine distribution system, particularly regarding its failures to serve less populated areas such as the East End and the needs of our seniors,” said Mr. Thiele. “Last week, I co-sponsored legislation with my Assembly colleague Ken Zebrowski to direct the State Health Department to create a priority system to vaccinate seniors 75 and older. The goal was to more fairly distribute the vaccine to those New Yorkers who need it the most, wherever they live.”
“My thanks to County Executive Steve Bellone and his deputy, Lisa Black, for their unwavering attention to the calls by East End elected officials to get the vaccine for their constituents. We still have far to go, but this is a big step forward.”