State pushes back on vaccination site report

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration is pushing back on the notion that the state somehow nixed a plan that would have established a COVID-19 vaccination center in Chautauqua County.

Will Burns, first deputy press secretary, said the state is unaware of any such plan for a site, first reported Monday morning by NBC News, and that the state is responsible for its cancellation is false.

In that NBC report, Chautauqua County had reportedly been identified as one of four sites prime for a vaccination site 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. However, the news report indicated that state officials felt other locations were more suitable to establish the federal site.

That prompted local elected officials — including U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, and state Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay — to issue scathing statements directed at Cuomo for his alleged role in nixing the plan. Both reps routinely take aim at the governor, including for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“People are sick and tired of seeing their leaders play politics during a crisis,” Reed said. “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.”

“We’ve seen revelations in recent weeks that the governor is making decisions based on politics and not on science or good policy,” Borrello added. “This denial of a critically needed vaccine clinic that doesn’t serve his political agenda, is an outrage.”

Burns, however, said no plan to place a vaccination center in the county was in the works.

“FEMA and the CDC set forth criteria for which counties and communities were eligible based on social vulnerability index and vaccination rates, as well as, other factors put forward by the federal government, and dozens of locations across the state met those criteria,” he said in a statement. “We wish we had the supply to do a site in each of those locations. It is false that any plans for a mass vaccination site in Chautauqua County were canceled, and the state is unaware of any such plans for such a site. None existed.

“New York state selected areas that best fit the criteria for increasing equitable vaccination access in communities where access is lowest, hesitancy rates are the highest, and vaccination rates are below average. We look forward to continuing to partner with local health departments and providers as we explore all options to get more shots in arms faster as the federal government increases the supply of vaccines.”


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