Vaccine Rollout Leaves East End In Cold: Lawmakers

Lisa Finn

EAST END, NY — East End lawmakers have teamed up to voice their concerns about a lack of vaccine distribution sites in the area.

In a letter to New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell, Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, Riverhead Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar, East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc, and Shelter Island Town Supervisor Gerard Siller, as well as East End mayors, Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio, Assemblyman Fred Thiele, and Senator Anthony Palumbo all said they understood the difficulties in implementing "such a massive endeavor."

Russell added, though, that vaccination distribution efforts have been "too slow and too chaotic."

The East End has been straining under the weight of a population swelling to summertime levels after many moved to the area at the start of the pandemic, all agreed.

"We also note that our region pays more than 45 percent of the general fund property taxes to Suffolk County. We have been inundated with complaints from frustrated constituents about vaccine distribution and the lack of East End locations," the letter said.

Similar concerns were also raised as coronavirus testing was introduced, with testing sites not as readily prevalent on the East End, according to many residents.

"The vaccine distribution system on the East End, with the new, expanded eligibility categories is virtually non-existent," the letter said. East End residents, especially senior citizens, cannot be expected to drive an hour or more to vaccination sites at Jones Beach, Stony Brook or Brentwood, lawmakers said.

"While we have submitted many suggestions for locations in our communities for consideration for the distribution of the vaccine, those suggestions have been ignored," the letter said.

Elected officials said they understand that there aren't enough dosages now to meet demand —newly expanded vaccine eligibility unveiled Tuesday means that 7 million New Yorkers are eligible, with only 300,000 dosages allocated to New York per week.

But when the vaccination becomes more readily available, lawmakers said, "The East End must get its fair share."

Derek Poppe, media representative for Bellone, responded: "Suffolk County has actionable plans and the infrastructure already in place to administer at least 10,000 vaccinations a week."

The only impediment is the current availability of supply, he said. In addition to the Brentwood vaccination site, locations have been identified countywide, Poppe said.

Agreements are already in place for distribution sites at Suffolk County Community College's Ammerman Campus and Eastern Campus, once the vaccines become available, he said.

"Just as we worked with all of our partners to set up testing sites where needed, we will continue to ensure our residents from every corner of the county have access to vaccination sites," Poppe said.

This article originally appeared on the North Fork Patch