County to open up walk-ins at certain vaccination sites

Walk-ins to receive the COVID-19 vaccine will be accepted beginning 3 p.m. Thursday at the county run site at Suffolk County Community College in Selden, beginning the expansion of availability to coincide with walk-ins at state-run sites, County Executive Steve Bellone said.

Mr. Bellone, speaking in Hauppauge to announce Phase 2 of county’s “Take Your Shot” campaign, said the current goal is to remove any potential barriers for people to receive the vaccine.

“We know our residents are busy and they need flexibility,” he said.

The walk-ins at the Selden camps are available until 9 p.m. Beginning next week, the Hauppauge pod will be open to walk-ins from 2-9 p.m. daily. Residents should visit the county website here for up-to-date information on when different pods in the county are open to walk-ins. Appointments had been required in order to receive the vaccine at any location during the initial four-month rollout of the vaccine.

“We’ve seen promising progress as more of our economy continues to open up, but if we want to return to normalcy, we need our residents to commit to getting vaccinated,” Mr. Bellone said. “And we’re getting closer and closer, but we’re not there.”

The second phase of the “Take Your Shot” campaign will feature TV, radio and targeted digital advertisements to build confidence in the vaccine and address misinformation. The county has committed an additional $200,000 toward the campaign, Mr. Bellone said.

About 45% of the county’s residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and Mr. Bellone credited the vaccine for the declining positivity rate and hospitalizations across the county. There were 271 new cases over the last 24 hours out of more than 15,000 tests for a positivity rate of 1.7%.

“That is huge,” Mr. Bellone said. “We have not seen less than 2% in this county in terms of positivity for COVID-19 since before the start of the second wave of this virus back in the fall.”

The latest data published Wednesday evening showed the positivity rate on a seven-day average at 2.2%. Mr. Bellone said the current trajectory is clearly on a decline after a few months where the positivity rate held steady in the 4% range and hospitalizations held steady at around 400.

“The question was, when will the vaccines be enough to shove us off that plateau,” Mr. Bellone said. “It took a couple months but we finally started moving again.”

The latest hospitalization number of patients across the county is 258.

Mr. Bellone said the county is approaching the point of supply of the vaccine outpacing demand, “a stark change” from when the vaccines were first rolled out and appointments were difficult to obtain.

He said there needs to be enough people vaccinated to reach herd immunity and eliminate the community spread of the virus.

“We’re a diverse county, but all of us want to see this virus gone,” he said. “And that’s the goal of reaching herd immunity with vaccines.”

If people do not receive the second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, that will reduce their protection against the virus and potentially allow the spread to continue, Mr. Bellone said.

He said there have been examples of people skipping a second dose and said it’s part of the larger hesitancy problem. Part of the campaign will focus on encouraging people to get both doses, he said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, speaking at a briefing in Buffalo, said those 75 or older statewide are 72% vaccinated. Those who are 65-74 are 80% vaccinated. Those who are 16-25 are at 34%, although eligibility only opened to that age group earlier this month.

He said the 16-25 age group is the target audience going forward.

The governor encouraged high schools to organize efforts to bring students 16 or older to vaccination sites.

“That’s the population we have to get up,” he said.