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FMCC to provide space for vaccines

JOHNSTOWN — Fulton-Montgomery Community College is working with county health officials to provide space on campus for the mass distribution of the coronavirus vaccine.

Acting President Greg Truckenmiller on Thursday reported to the Board of Trustees that the Fulton County Public Health Department operated a coronavirus vaccine clinic on the college campus earlier in the day.

Health officials were expected to administer 200 vaccine doses to first responders during the first day on campus and will return today to administer the vaccine to registered educators at the K-12 level, as well as some FMCC staffers.

The Fulton County Public Health Department is expected to continue utilizing space at FMCC to operate vaccine clinics in the months ahead. Currently appointments to receive the vaccine will be scheduled on-campus two days a week, with health officials planning to expand time slots to four days a week in the future, according to Truckenmiller.

College officials have also offered space to the Montgomery County Public Health Department to operate vaccine clinics on-campus, although no formal plans are yet in place.

“Montgomery County contacted us, they’re still in the planning stages,” said Truckenmiller.

FMCC is the latest in the increasing number of State University of New York campuses to provide access to local health officials for coronavirus vaccination sites.

“More than half of SUNY campuses are offering space for vaccinations, and Fulton-Montgomery Community College and Herkimer Community College join that long list as they open their doors so local public health officials can begin giving shots to eligible New Yorkers,” said SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras in a prepared statement on Thursday.

FMCC Board of Trustees Chair Geoffrey Peck commended Truckenmiller and the college staff for working with county officials to provide an opportunity for expanded access to the coronavirus vaccine locally as additional doses eventually become available.

“This is such an important program,” said Peck. “This the perfect place for the counties to come together.”

“We have the capacity for that so it is a nice service we can provide to the community,” said Truckenmiller.

Although the coronavirus vaccine will be provided at FMCC, its distribution will be at the direction of the local public health departments based on eligibility as determined by the state. Officials from both Fulton and Montgomery Counties in the past week have pointed to interest from the public to receive the coronavirus vaccine as outpacing distribution.

The Fulton County Public Health Department on Jan. 14 issued a statement that the county does not have available vaccine doses and is not currently scheduling appointments. Fulton County is currently directing residents to the state Department of Health eligibility website to access other sites outside of the area to receive the vaccine. State-run sites are currently scheduling appointments through April 16.

The Montgomery County Public Health Department also issued a press release on Jan. 14 stating that the county does not have available vaccine doses. Montgomery County has established a hotline that residents eligible to receive the vaccine can call to be placed on a waiting list that will be used to schedule appointments as vaccine doses become available.

The state’s plan to rollout the vaccine has broken distribution down into five phases with those most at risk of infection and severe illness receiving the vaccine initially and then moving into lower risk categories.

Eligibility was initially opened to the state’s 1A distribution subgroup that includes patient-facing healthcare and other critical hospital workers, seniors living in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities and people with disabilities living in congregate settings when the state first began receiving vaccine shipments in December.

The state on Jan. 11 opened vaccine eligibility up to the 1B distribution subgroup which includes individuals 65 and older, first responders, public safety officers, teachers and other school staff, in-person college instructors, childcare workers, public-facing grocery store workers, transit workers and individuals living and working in homeless shelters.

State officials have pointed to the roughly 250,000 coronavirus vaccine doses currently being received each week from the federal government for statewide distribution as insufficient to meet the demand of the more than 7 million New Yorkers who are currently eligible for immunization.

President Joe Biden on Thursday signed an executive order invoking the Defense Production Act to ramp up the production of supplies needed to manufacture authorized coronavirus vaccines. The president also plans to deploy the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Guard to aid state vaccine distribution efforts.

In addition to the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 and Moderna vaccines that have been authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a third vaccine from Johnson & Johnson may seek authorization in the coming weeks.

Beyond adding to the available vaccine supply, the vaccine from Johnson & Johnson if approved for use may speed delivery as only a single dose of the vaccine is required for immunization. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines each require two doses administered several weeks apart.

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