Wendel hopeful to reach 50% vaccinated by Memorial Day

Chautauqua County Executive PJ Wendel said he’s optimistic 50% of residents can be partially, if not fully, vaccinated from COVID-19 by Memorial Day. The county this week crossed the one-third vaccination mark for those receiving at least one dose.

“I’m hoping that by Memorial Day we’re at 50%,” Wendel said of the May 31 holiday. “Obviously, we have boots on the ground working on this. We have to be practical and we have been for the last two months-plus.”

If that benchmark is reached, the county executive believes businesses, venues and other events shuttered over the last year can resume as normal.

“I really think we can do it,” Wendel said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we get there — that’s my goal.”

According to the state’s vaccine tracker, 42,555 residents within the county have been administered at least one dose — representing 33.3% of the total population — while 25,240 have completed their vaccination series.

Although the county crossed the one-third mark, it should be noted that those under 16 are not yet able to receive a vaccine, so the rate for those eligible is much higher.

Wendel said he’s proud of the collaboration that has helped get COVID shots out to local residents, either through clinics, pharmacies, organizations that assist the community, and — just recently — local doctor offices.

He said the goal at the onset of vaccinating the public was to make as many doses available as possible. With a large portion of those eligible getting the vaccine, Wendel said efforts will eventually shift to trying to get the doses to those not originally planning on getting a shot.

“At that point it’s going to be a matter of convincing people to get the vaccine,” he said.

About one in five New York state residents were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Monday, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A little more than one-third of the state’s residents had received at least one vaccine dose.

Locally, the countywide rate should expect a healthy boost following another mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic taking place Thursday at Jamestown Community College. The clinic will make use of the Pfizer vaccine, and those who attend must be available to receive their second dose on Thursday, April 29.

Beginning Tuesday, New York residents over 16 years old were able to sign up for COVID-19 vaccinations, a major expansion of eligibility as the state seeks to immunize as many people as possible. Gov. Andrew Cuomo expanded eligibility to 30 and over last week and announced that people aged 16 to 29 would be eligible starting April 6.

Teens aged 16 and 17 will be limited to receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, since that is the only one that has been authorized for use by people under 18. Parental consent will be required for vaccinations of 16- and 17-year-olds, with certain exceptions including for teens who are married or are parents.

Meanwhile, the county Health Department reported only nine new confirmed cases on Tuesday. There are currently 165 active cases, three people with the virus in the hospital and 407 in quarantine.

To date there have been 8,373 total confirmed cases, 8,066 recoveries and 142 virus-related deaths.


State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras on Tuesday announced a program to begin vaccinating SUNY residential students prior the end of the spring semester.

SUNY has secured its first reserved shipment of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to inoculate SUNY residential students prior to their departure for summer break. Because the J&J vaccine requires just one dose, tens of thousands of on-campus students scheduled to finish the semester in early May can get their one shot without having to wait weeks for a second dose before going home.

As vaccine eligibility expands to all New Yorkers ages 16 and older today, 18,600 J&J vaccines are being distributed to 34 SUNY campuses. SUNY is currently working alongside New York state to secure additional doses to be reserved specifically for the SUNY residential student population. Those will be distributed to more campuses in weekly installments over the next several weeks.

“SUNY has vigorously advocated on behalf of our students, faculty, and staff to make sure they were eligible for the COVID vaccine and we have worked diligently for months to prepare for this moment,” Malatras said. “Giving residential students the one-shot option helps clear a crucial logistical hurdle in the race to get people fully vaccinated before they leave campus and return to their hometown communities. We strongly encourage all students to schedule their appointments as soon as they can.”


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