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Reed wants feds to distribute vaccine

Clymer resident Margaret Shearman has tired from the madness and confusion of attempting to get a COVID-19 vaccine in New York state. As a 67-year-old resident who does not live in a nursing home or an assisted-living facility, her options are limited to visiting a website that is not user friendly to others her age.

“It is impossible to get a vaccination,” she wrote in an email. “Looking at the state website for a vaccination site, I was really taken back as how the sites were set up in the state.”

She is correct. From Jamestown to Johnson City, just outside Binghamton, there are no state-sponsored clinics across the Southern Tier. In fact, the closest one to our region — according to the state’s vaccination site at https://am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/– is the State University at Buffalo South Campus at Harriman Hall. As of Wednesday afternoon, there were no available appointments.

Shearman, who says she has “several underlying medical conditions,” is beyond frustrated and worried. “With the new variants of the virus being more contagious … I wonder if I will get vaccinated in time,” she said. “More time putting life on hold and isolating in my home, which is not good for the mind.”

On Wednesday, however, she had some new optimism. During a conference call with area reporters, U.S. Rep. Tom Reed called on the federal government to become involved with the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine in New York state.

Reed told reporters that he and his office are hearing from far too many constituents about the obstacles that face those who are currently eligible to receive a vaccination. “I am the first Republican that came out last week and supported President Biden, at least in New York, … for full federalization of taking over New York’s distribution program because they have completely dropped the ball,” he said.

Reed, R-Corning, cited two major reasons for the bottleneck with appointments: an antiquated response system being used by the state and an overload of potential candidates who qualify for a treatment. Reed said while empathized with state Gov. Andrew Cuomo on a number of the problems, he said the governor is responsible for adding to an already challenging demand when he allowed 7.5 million people who are over 65, work as teachers, first-responders and other emergency personnel to become eligible for the vaccine.

It is an equation, he noted, that cannot possibly add up when states are receiving about 250,000 vaccines per week. “If you look at other states around the country, they have tailored their pool of … eligible people to more restrictively handle that population in a way that more matches the supply chain that is coming in from the federal government,” Reed said, later noting that state policies have “overwhelmed the system.”

“New York, I think, has passed the point of no return in this distribution program and it is time to federalize this as President Biden has proposed, using federal resources, to take over the distribution centers and get this done,” he said. “I think in New York we have to go one step further and completely federalize this distribution component and take this out of the hands of New York state and put in it the hands of true emergency response functions, such as the National Guard.”

Later that afternoon, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand announced $466,800,000 in federal funding for New York’s vaccine distribution and administration. Both senators said this funding covers the costs of supplies required for storing, handling, distributing, transporting, and administering the COVID-19 vaccines.

For her part, Shearman was pleased with Reed’s comments about the state process. “I know I have done my part to cope with the virus as there are many others who are too,” she said. “I worry about being pushed into the background and can only hope the virus won’t make its way to my door.”

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