Created: March 05, 2021 06:53 PM
BATAVIA, N.Y. (WHEC) — A state-run mass vaccination clinic was held at Genesee Community College Friday. The clinic was originally supposed to be specifically for residents of Genesee, Orleans, and Wyoming counties, but ended up being open to anyone eligible regardless of county of residence.
Plans for the GCC clinic were announced last week after Genesee, Orleans, and Wyoming counties joined forces to request from the state that a clinic be held in their area, specifically for their residents. Many rural-area residents have told News10NBC that living far away from cities puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to vaccine access.
"It was unfortunately opened up, and so we did not get as many registrations for these doses as we were hoping," said Paul Pettit, public health director for Genesee and Orleans counties.
Appointments for the GCC site opened up on the state’s website Thursday morning at 8 a.m. and all appointments were taken in under 90 minutes.
"I really feel for the elderly people that have been bumped and they can't even make an appointment,” said a Genesee county resident who got her vaccine at GCC Friday and wished to remain anonymous. “It was full within a couple of hours yesterday when they started booking."
Before appointments opened up online, the zip code requirement was removed from the registration page, thus allowing anyone eligible to sign up.
When News10NBC reached out to the state to confirm that the GCC site was intentionally opened up to anyone eligible, a representative from the state health department confirmed that it was, saying in a statement “As with other non-FEMA, state-run mass vaccination sites, these are open to all eligible New Yorkers.” The statement goes on to say “as more vaccine doses become available, we will review how these sites functioned to determine future allocations at these sites or at other short-term sites we may establish across the state.”
"We've been telling the state, and they know, that being rural... that's a disparity,” said Pettit. “That's an issue with access to health care and other issues, so there is a lot of frustration."
Only about 25% of GCC appointments went to residents of Genesee, Orleans, and Wyoming counties. Erie County residents got over 47% of appointments, and Monroe County residents got over 9% of appointments.
GCC is an appealing location for residents of rural counties because of its central location.
"It was about a 45-minute drive for me to get here,” said Orleans County resident Jeff Jubenville, who got his COVID vaccine at GCC today. “Which isn't a big deal, but I don't know when it's going to come to Orleans County."
Pettit says he will continue to advocate for more doses in rural areas going forward.
"We need more equitable access to the vaccine,” he said. “Our folks need to have that in their communities so they don't have to drive to a state site in Rochester or in Buffalo."
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