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Oswego County Health Department begins Vaccinating Emergency Response and  Front-Line Health Care Workers

OSWEGO COUNTY – The Oswego County Health Department held its first COVID-19 vaccination clinic Wednesday evening, Jan. 6. Nurses dispensed the Moderna vaccine to 77 emergency response and front-line health care workers who meet New York State’s criteria for receiving the first round of COVID-19 vaccines.

The Health Department is following the strict prioritized schedule established by New York State for vaccine distribution and is contacting area agencies to arrange to have priority groups vaccinated.

“The County Health Department has been preparing for this type of public health threat for years,” said Jiancheng Huang, Oswego County Public Health Director. “Our Health Department is well versed in mass vaccination planning, and we have strong support from other county departments and community agencies in the emergency planning process. As more vaccine arrives, the Oswego County Health Department is well prepared and looks forward to administering this potentially lifesaving medication to all those who are eligible under the guidance set by New York State.”

Given the priority groups established by New York State, and the Centers for Disease Control’s recommendation of 15- or 30-minutes’ observation after a person receives the vaccine, the health department cannot offer walk-in or drive-through COVID-19 clinics.

“With every vaccine administered to our community members, it is a relief to know that people are being offered another layer of protection from the COVID-19 virus,” said Sonia Robinson, Public Health Educator and Emergency Preparedness Coordinator for the County Health Department. “We consider Wednesday night’s event a good introduction to what is required to administer this medication.”

Dr. Christina Liepke, Oswego County Medical Director, said the vaccine clinic went very well.

“It was wonderful to see so many health care providers from our community eager to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Liepke. “We appreciate the collaboration of Oswego Health, who conducted the first local COVID vaccine clinics in December. We are looking forward to holding more vaccination efforts to stem the tide of this pandemic.”  

The two vaccines that are being distributed in New York State  -- the Moderna vaccine and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine -- have been approved through the emergency use authorization process by the federal Food and Drug Administration.

“It is exciting to start vaccinating our community members against COVID-19. It feels like there is light at the end of a long, dark tunnel,” said Anna Reitz, Oswego County Public Health Nurse and Immunization Coordinator. “Vaccines have been one of the best tools in public health to prevent the spread of disease, and the vaccines currently available have been shown to be highly effective in preventing COVID-19 infection. Like other vaccinations, receiving COVID-19 vaccine provides protection for the person receiving the vaccine and may also protect the people close to them as well.”

Reitz said the vaccines have gone through the same rigorous review that all vaccines must follow in the United States. Scientists have been researching vaccines for similar viruses for decades, and much of the significant work for developing the new vaccines had already taken place before the COVID-19 pandemic started.

Currently all front-line health care workers are being vaccinated including outpatient health care workers, public health staff, dentists, staff at diagnostic and treatment centers, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech therapists, residents of nursing homes, staff of skilled nursing facilities and adult care facilities, hospice workers, and home care workers. Additional clinics are being scheduled as the County Health Department receives additional supplies of vaccine.

“We thank our residents for your patience as vaccine distribution gets underway, and we thank our partners for your continuous support,” said Huang. “We will continue to keep you informed when the vaccine is made available within the New York State guidelines. This process will take several months.”

For more information and additional resources about COVID-19 in Oswego County go to https://health.oswegocounty.com/information/2019_novel_coronavirus/index.php.

(All photos by Public Health Educator/ Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Sonia Robinson.)

Reitz, Bourgeois

Anna Reitz, Oswego County Public Health Nurse and Immunization Coordinator, passes the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to Senior Licensed Practical Nurse Tina Bourgeois at the Oswego County Health Department’s first COVID-19 vaccination clinic. The Health Department is vaccinating front-line workers and emergency responders who meet the criteria set by the New York State Department of Health.

purtell, donhauser
Oswego County Public Health Nurse Jennifer Purtell vaccinates first responder Patricia Donhauser of the Cody Volunteer Fire Department at Wednesday’s vaccination clinic.

EMS Coord Fox, Katzman
Renee Fox, Oswego County EMS Coordinator, conducts a COVID screening assessment  with Captain Brian Katzman of the Oswego Town Volunteer Fire Department. Several first responders and front-line health care workers received their COVID-19 vaccines in the County Health Department’s first COVID vaccine clinic.