Eligibility expands in the Twin Tiers, but Public Health Departments are frustrated


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(WETM) – Public health officials thought expanding vaccine eligibility in New York would help fill clinics, but the fight against the pandemic is losing some speed to the fight against vaccine hesitancy.

In New York, residents aged 16 and older and in Pennsylvania, people in Phase 1B are now eligibile for the vaccine.

“Right now the only vaccine approved for under 18 is the Pfizer,” Chemung County Public Health Director Pete Buzzetti said.

“The reason why Pfizer was tested first was that they got their act together first,” Professor John Moore of Weill Cornell Medicine continued.

The Pfizer vaccine is not widely available in the Southern Tier. As of right now, both Chemung and Steuben Counties have a large supply of Moderna’s vaccine, rather than the other two approved doses.

“I do recommend the 16 and 17 year old’s to pre-register at Corning Community College state vaccination site. I believe they’re just about the only ones left in the area that have Pfizer,” Steuben County Public Health Director Darlene Smith said.

The efficacy testing process for younger populations mirrors that of the adult approval process.

“It’s exactly the same process. You test for safety and efficacy in a small group of people who are of same age range. Then, you move on to a larger scale efficacy trial,” Professor Moore added.

To register for the vaccine as a minor, parental consent is required. At the clinic, minors are required to be accompanied by a parent or guardian and identification is needed to prove registration.

Vaccine hesitancy continues to be a barrier to reaching heard immunity in the Southern Tier. Buzzetti said people are still unsure whether the vaccine is right for them.

“No, we have not seen the increase that we’re hoping for with the expansion of eligibility to 16 plus. I do think that there’s some vaccine hesitancy out there. Initially, we are hearing that a large portion of the public is looking forward to the Johnson and Johnson vaccine,” Buzzetti continued.

It is a similar story in Steuben County, which is holding a vaccination clinic Wednesday at Corning-Painted Post High School. Slots for this clinic are still available.

“I not am seeing as large of an uptick as I had hoped for. I still would discourage holding out and shopping so to speak for the vaccine because there just aren’t any guarantees,” Smith continued.

Buzzetti went on to say he is unsure when the Johnson & Johnson will be widely available in Chemung County. It is important to avoid vaccine shopping and take the first available dose. As of right now, there has been no comparative trial for the vaccines. All three approved vaccinations prevent severe disease and hospitalization.

In Chemung County, the health department is focused on reaching hard-to-get-to populations and those with limited access to technology. Walk-in clinics and mobile vaccination units will be available soon. In Steuben County, they are opening a Monday through Friday clinic in Bath that accepts both pre-registration and walk-in appointments. This could start as early as this week, but there has been no official word of a start date yet.

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