Ulster County has the capacity to vaccinate 50,000 people against COVID-19 a month; however, this number has yet to be reached following a shortage of vaccine supplies from the federal government.
The Ulster County Department of Health is currently operating two areas of distribution for the COVID-19 vaccine — both by appointment only. Locations include the Kate Walton Field House on the Kingston High School campus and a second on the campus of Ellenville High School. As of Feb. 11, there are no appointments available at either location.
The COVID-19 vaccine has been technically available to eligible New Yorkers since the end of last year, with two vaccines approved by both the Food and Drug Administration and New York State independent Clinical Advisory Task Force — developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
New York State will be administering the vaccines at no cost through a phased distribution plan.
While rollout plans are changing weekly — if not daily — as of Feb. 11, New York State is in Phase 1a and initial groups from Phase 1b.
Eligible New Yorkers in Phase 1a and 1b include: Any persons working in the medical field, including those with nonmedical positions (intake staff), residents and staff in nursing homes, individuals 65 and older, first responders and their support staff, in-person college instructors and P-12 school or school district faculty and staff, grocery store and public transit workers, and individuals living or working in a homeless shelter.
Beginning Jan. 11, in-person college instructors became eligible for the vaccine. SUNY New Paltz English professor Kathena DeGrassi has been eligible for quite some time, but has been unable to get her vaccine.
This semester, Degrassi will be teaching two Women in Literature classes on campus once a week.
The school informed her of her eligibility however, they are unable to actually provide her with access to it. When asked whether or not the school had provided her with information on how to receive the vaccine, she responded that “the college has been very candid about vaccine-related information in emails, on the website, via texts.”
This shortage has made it more difficult for DeGrassi, who has been unable to find any local provider that is currently giving out vaccinations.
“I know some people who have been willing to drive to Westchester or Albany,” DeGrassi said. “I find it hard to set aside the time to do so, particularly while balancing teaching remotely for two different schools and helping my own kids manage their hybrid learning experience.”
However, like many others, after reading the news and keeping herself updated on plans for more extensive rollouts and larger vaccine availabilities, Degrassi is hopeful that things will turn around soon — regardless of the fact that she is currently unable to obtain an appointment herself.
Vaccine availability is expected to increase over time and become more widely available in spring or early summer 2021. Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan — during his COVID-19 briefing on Jan. 28 — said, “We still very much need more vaccines in Ulster County. We need them urgently.”
However, as of Feb. 2, Ryan said that New York state can expect a 16-17% increase in vaccine allocations, compared to the last few weeks. To stay updated on local developments in COVID-19 vaccine distribution, visit covid19.ulstercountyny.gov/vaccine-resource-center. For a detailed list of who is currently eligible to receive the vaccine in New York State, visit covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/phased-distribution-vaccine, and to find out if you are currently eligible, use this tool.