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COUNTY Plenty to debate with vaccinations

The OBSERVER's View

It’s difficult to say that either Terry Niebel or Sheriff Jim Quattrone were wrong earlier this month when discussing COVID-19 vaccination of 110 Chautauqua County Jail inmates.

Niebel, a legislator representing the Sheridan area, would have preferred to see those 110 doses go to senior citizens, a high-risk group that has by and large found itself frustrated by the state’s online-driven appointment policy. At the same time, Quattrone makes good points about the wisdom of using doses that were about to expire on jail inmates, a homebound population that is similarly at a high risk of infection that affects not just the inmates but the county employees who work in the jail.

The real villain in this mess is the relative scarcity of the vaccine. New York isn’t receiving enough doses from the federal government, and Chautauqua County isn’t receiving enough doses to meet the need for vaccinations of high-risk individuals. These sorts of discussions happen when there is far more demand for a product than there is supply.

They are also the sort of discussions that happen when systems put in place for something as important as public health emergencies largely ignore the thoughts of local officials because state officials micromanage emergencies from afar.

Both Niebel and Quattrone have peoples’ best interests at heart. The problem is they’re trying to help people dealing with a lousy system. That’s why we hope President Joe Biden’s March 11 statement that the federal government will launch its own website to help match people with available vaccine doses in their areas, create a call center and help state and local governments develop websites if necessary deals with some of the issues states have been having with vaccinations comes to fruition.

New York hasn’t been able to handle vaccinations for its first two target groups. Why would we have any faith the state can handle having the state’s entire adult population eligible for the vaccine all at once?

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