East End Vaccine Access Boosted Amid Continuing Criticism 

A bottle of COVID-19 vaccine
A bottle of COVID-19 vaccine
Credit: iStock

New COVID-19 vaccination sites are opening across the Hamptons and North Fork, although East End officials remain concerned about New York State’s handling of the rollout.

Suffolk County Community College’s Eastern Campus in Riverhead joined Peconic Bay Medical Center in becoming a vaccination site, county officials said, and the state has coordinated one-day pop-up sites at several local churches, including Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church in East Hampton and St. Rosalie’s Church in Hampton Bays. But local officials critical of the rollout maintain that the state still needs to do more.

“Frankly, the current state process put in place for vaccine distribution is fragmented and chaotic,” said Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell. “The lack of advance notice to the community when vaccines are available at different locations leads to disappointment and frustration for those who simply don’t know when vaccines are being offered.” 

So far, those eligible to get vaccinated are in groups 1a and 1b, which includes teachers, first responders, public transit workers, public-facing grocery store workers, people in homeless shelters, anyone older than age 65, and people with certain comorbidities. But supply bottlenecks continue to cause long delays for members of the public seeking to secure appointments.

Minerva Perez, the executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group OLA of Eastern Long Island, which was involved in one of the pop-ups, said the process may not be ideal, but is a step in the right direction.

“We’re not going to get as much as we want as quickly as we want, period,” she said, adding that “I am absolutely seeing the benefit of some of these targeted pop-ups to make sure the particularly vulnerable…are able to get access.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office did not respond to a request for comment. Russell wasn’t alone in his criticism. 

“The COVID-19 vaccine availability has been sporadic, and the process has been very stressful on our seniors,” said Riverhead Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar while announcing a senor outreach program that will ensure the town’s seniors are vaccinated and will be provided with transportation to and from vaccination sites.

Russell added, “We recognize that vaccines are limited and that this is a problem statewide, however, a shortage of vaccines doesn’t mean there should be a shortage of information, too.”

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