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Report: state quashed plan to put vaccination center in Chautauqua County

Photo by Brian Ferry

New York state reportedly quashed a federal plan to put a vaccination center in Chautauqua County.

NBC News reported early Monday morning that the Biden Administration had begun looking for sites for four small vaccination centers in New York state. Federal officials ranked the best spots based on a county-by-county index that measures average income, unemployment, race and a dozen other factors.

The data said Chautauqua County was a leading candidate to get vaccine shots to underserved people, but state officials disagreed.

The data said the county was a leading candidate to get vaccines out to the underserved.

State officials disagreed under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to center vaccine clinics in areas with higher percentages of Black and Hispanic residents, pushing back against the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The state prevailed,” said a federal official who spoke to NBC News on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

“People are sick and tired of seeing their leaders play politics during a crisis,” said Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, in a news release. “Communities like Chautauqua County are underserved and chronically overlooked by Albany. In fact, the federal government and CDC’s own data demonstrated the area deserves a vaccination site. Governor Cuomo’s decision to unilaterally deny Chautauqua County a center has left an entire swath of Western New York without direct access to a federal or state vaccination site. These actions aren’t just misguided – they are plain wrong because they directly jeopardize lives.”

County officials were unaware how close the region came to receiving a vaccination center.

“We had no idea. I was not involved in any of this,” County Executive PJ Wendel said in a phone interview. “I’m very disappointed. It was all news to us.”

Wendel said the county-by-county index has been used as a measuring tool previously during the pandemic, and noted a population within the county that has comorbidities and would qualify for a COVID-19 vaccine.

He said it was “very unfortunate” that politics may have played a role in the decision not to bring a vaccination center to the county.

“We’re not a political pawn,” Wendel said, “we’re here to do what we can for the residents.”

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