As vaccine supply begins to flow, local health workers say they’re ready

FULTON — With the availability of COVID-19 vaccine increasing locally, more and more Oswego County residents are getting inoculated.

More than 1,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine were administered Saturday during Oswego County Health Department clinics held at Fulton’s G. Ray Bodley High School.

On Saturday morning at Bodley, there were 330 appointments for people to receive their second dose of vaccine. Then from 12:45-5:30 p.m. Saturday at Bodley, another 715 appointments were scheduled for people to receive their first dose of the Moderna vaccine, which requires two doses.

Still more vaccine appointments were set for Sunday at the school for the administering of the one-dose Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The appointments were for everyone eligible under current state guidelines.

Personnel from the Oswego County Health Department, volunteers, and Fulton City School District staff were all on hand to make sure everything went safely and according to plan, said Diane Oldenburg, senior public health educator with the county health department.

“This is what we’ve been training for in public health all these years,” Oldenburg said. “We’ve really practiced for this. We’re thankful for all our community partners that have helped us step up.”

One example of the training she mentioned was the Girl Scout cookie drills that helped prepare staff for receiving and distributing supplies. Oldenburg also thanked the county’s Emergency Management Office for its assistance.

She said the health department was appreciative for everyone at the Fulton City School District, which has hosted vaccination clinics on Saturdays since early January. From setup and takedown at the clinics to tasks such as getting extra chairs, hand sanitizer, an extension cord, or even just a highlighter, their staff has been extremely valuable, Oldenburg said.

“Their staff here is outstanding. They are just phenomenal to work with,” she said.

Appointments were spaced out enough to keep things moving as briskly as possible. Oldenburg said it takes about 30 minutes from start to finish to get a dose of vaccine. That is primarily because after being inoculated, a person has to stay for 15 minutes for a required observation period.

Upon entering the school for an appointment, there is a check-in area and then another stop at the insurance area. Oldenburg said that although there is a charge for an administrative fee, it goes through a person’s insurance so they don’t have to pay anything. Additionally, nobody who is eligible for the vaccine is turned away, even if they are not insured.

Once entering the gym, the person with the appointment waits a short time until it is their turn to get vaccinated. Stations are spaced out to account for social distancing. After getting the shot and waiting 15 minutes, the person exits.

Oldenburg said feedback from those receiving the vaccine has been overwhelmingly positive.

“They’ve remarked about how organized and how friendly everybody is, and how smoothly it went,” she said.

The health department has taken steps to make it easier for those eligible to schedule vaccination appointments.

Appointments are required for all COVID-19 vaccination clinics and can be made online at https://health.oswegocounty.com/ by clicking on the link for “Local Information About the COVID-19 Vaccination.”

A vaccination hotline is also available to help people make appointments by phone. It will regularly be open from 10 a.m. to noon on Thursdays. For assistance, call 315-349-3383.

Oldenburg said the health department is also working with the Office for the Aging to help schedule appointments for people who might not be able to set up an appointment online.

Also, Oswego County and Oswego County Opportunities, Inc. are partnering to offer free transportation to residents to go to COVID-19 test and vaccination sites. The service is available Mondays through Saturdays between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. Call 315-598-1514 to schedule a ride in advance.

The clinics this past weekend at G. Ray Bodley were open to 1B essential workers such as first responders, corrections officers, teachers and other school employees, child care workers, public transit workers, and hotel, restaurant and grocery store workers. They were also open to people with comorbidities, underlying conditions, and those aged 65 and older. A full list of eligible essential workers and people with comorbidities and underlying conditions is available at https://covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/phased-distribution-vaccine.

Anyone with a comorbidity or underlying condition must provide a note from their health care provider as proof of their condition. Essential workers must provide a workplace ID or pay stub to prove their employment. Those without proper documentation will be turned away.

More information about the vaccines can be found by clicking on the “Fact Sheet” link for each vaccine at https://covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/.

With more vaccine becoming available and more people eligible to receive it, there is optimism in the county’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

 “The community is happy about being vaccinated, and we’re happy about that as well,” Oldenburg said. “It’s a team effort to keep our community moving forward.”