With COVID-19 cases flaring and word that the state is running out of vaccines, Shelter Islanders who have been anxious to get their first inoculations have been pressuring local officials.
Supervisor Gerry Siller said he and his team — Police Chief Jim Read and Deputy Supervisor Amber Brach-Williams — haven’t been idle in pressuring for a share of the supply as it’s being received by the state. He has joined with Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) and other East End public officials to make local needs known.
“This is our priority,” Mr. Siller said.
Even when an anonymous resident offered to pay for a freezer unit — estimated to cost between $10,000 and $12,000 — to store the Pfizer vaccine, the supervisor said he was told it wouldn’t guarantee that vaccine distribution would easily reach Shelter Island or the East End.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has established a “vaccine equity task force” to ensure that when vaccines become available, they will reach under-served communities, Mr. Siller said.
“We’re going to push,” Mr. Siller said.
He’s awaiting word from Senator Charles Schumer (D-New York), hoping the legislator will help with the effort for more vaccine to reach an area where the senior population — many with compromised immune systems — is particularly large. In addition, the population on the East End has swollen to summer proportions with once part-time residents flocking to the area to escape New York City and other places even more hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ms. Brach-Williams has been trying to arrange for mass inoculations on the Island as soon as the vaccines become available. She promised to ensure information on sites and availability will continue to be posted on the town website. The state has opened several sites, but they are a good distance from the East End.
In addition to people applying for the vaccine on state and county websites, the town is compiling its own list of residents who are 65 or older or have other qualifying conditions to receive inoculations as soon as vaccine starts to flow to New York again. Mr. Siller requests that those who qualify list themselves with the town, county and state.
At the same time, he said people who have appointments for March, but get earlier appointments, to remove their names from the March schedules to open those dates to others not currently scheduled.
Mr. Siller predicted it would be late spring before all Islanders can get the vaccine.
Some residents have been seen without masks at the IGA. Store personnel are doing their best to enforce the requirements for mask wearing, but the town may have to help ensure that no one is ignoring the advice to wear a mask, even if they have been inoculated.
It’s estimated that it takes a few weeks even after a second shot to be protected. Those who have been vaccinated have said they are told to continue to wear masks in public even if they believe they are protected in order to others.