Confusing Statements Prompt ‘Huge Influx’ of Phone Calls to Tioga County Public Health



FROM TIOGA PUBLIC HEALTH: Tioga County Public Health Department is preparing for Phase 1B of New York State’s COVID-19 Vaccination Program. Our department saw a huge influx of phone calls starting on Saturday, January 9th, snowballing through Monday from the public seeking information regarding receiving their COVID-19 vaccine. We are currently awaiting further clarification from New York State regarding specifics for the 1B eligible population group, as well as details regarding vaccine availability.



FROM THE EDITOR: Locally and statewide, 1B Priority vaccines are notable as the first foray into mass vaccinations of non-medical personnel. It will expand the reach of COVID-19 vaccines to include teachers, corrections officers, law enforcement, people 75 and older, and others.

The public had reason to be confused and call the Tioga Public Health office in apparently large numbers to seek further information on Phase 1B vaccinations.

Tioga Public Health issued a statement via email on Saturday (posted on MyHometownToday.com) that encouraged the public to “stay tuned” — because 1B vaccine appointments would be available this week (of January 11). The exact statement from health department was: “Stay tuned: Priority 1B appointments will be available starting next week (as written on Saturday; refers to week of January 11).

Although the public health statement did not tell residents to call, it did tell the public that 1B appointments would be available this week; then changed course Monday to say Tioga is still awaiting clarification before scheduling appointments. The exact statement was: “… awaiting further clarification from New York State regarding specifics for the 1B eligible population group, as well as details regarding vaccine availability.”

Here’s a point of confusion.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said: “… New Yorkers within priority group 1B can now begin scheduling appointments with individual providers, including pharmacies, local health departments (emphasis added), and hospitals, to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.”

More confusion for Tioga residents was health departments at two neigboring counties moved forward with 1B appointments. Chemung County Executive Christopher Moss said his county began scheduling 1B appointments on Monday and encouraged residents with questions to call the county’s COVID Hotline. Broome County Executive Jason Garnar said Broome is also making 1B appointments. However, both executive’s said vaccine supplies are currently not available to fulfill these appointments.

Then, Cuomo said the state will handle appointments. In a NY State news release, it was reported: “Eligibility determinations and a list of nearby providers where appointments can be scheduled can all be done through New York’s new ‘Am I Eligible” app. New Yorkers can begin calling the New York State Vaccination Hotline at 4PM on Monday, January 11: 1-833-NYS-4VAX (1-833-697-4829).

U.S. Sen. Kristin Gillibrand told New Yorkers over aged 75 in a Tweet to contact their local health departments to schedule appointments, even though she has no direct role in distribution. That authority has been assumed by the states

What to do?

Wait for your local health department to get clarification from the state?

Call your local health department to schedule a 1B appointment, as Gillibrand and other elected officials suggest?

Bypass local health departments and go online to a state website or call a state hotline for an appointment?

Confused?



MORE FROM TIOGA PUBLIC HEALTH: Our first vaccination clinic for Phase 1A is Wednesday (January 13), but is fully booked. Forthcoming clinics will follow the same protocol, with appointments that can be scheduled online once we are apprised of vaccine availability.

“Phase 1B expands our efforts to a larger portion of our population. It will take weeks to fully vaccinate this phase. We will continue to add more clinics as we receive additional vaccine doses from the State, but please be patient. The vaccine will help protect our families and community, however, it will take time. Continue practicing ongoing protocols – social distancing, wear masks, if sick stay home and call your doctor,” stated Lisa McCafferty, public health director.

For those eligible for the vaccine in group 1B, including teachers and education workers, first responders, law enforcement, and people 75 and older, please go to
https://covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov for more information.

Future COVID-19 vaccination clinic information and registration will be posted on the Tioga County
COVID-19 website (covid19.tiogacountyny.com) and on Facebook @ Tioga County Public Health.

We will also share any additional locations where the vaccination can be obtained within Tioga County when that information is released.