Residents of Peconic Landing won the lottery last week, when representatives from Stony Brook Medicine showed up to the Greenport retirement community to administer about 650 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
State, county, and hospital officials must find ways to replicate that success story. Similar partnerships could allow hospital systems or local governments to rapidly administer the vaccines to other vulnerable communities across the Island.
Newsday’s editorial board has advocated for that and it seems state officials finally are ready to make that happen. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s longtime adviser, Larry Schwartz, told the editorial board last week that he would work with other state and local officials to develop a map of similar retirement communities in Nassau and Suffolk and then arrange for hospitals to coordinate vaccinating the residents.
That’s a crucial, welcome step in what has been a frustrating process for the region’s older residents, many of whom are worried about how and when they can get their shots. We’re counting on Schwartz, who was involved in setting up the Peconic vaccination program, to keep his promise.
In Stony Brook’s case, the hospital used Peconic’s common spaces and provided vaccines to the development’s residents and others in the surrounding communities. In other areas, like Ridge, there are multiple senior communities right near each other with ample recreational spaces, a good opportunity to get even more vaccinations done in a short time span.
Key to vaccinating more of those over 65 is for the state to loosen its rules and allow county officials to include this age cohort among those for whom the county is allotted doses. Until recently, the counties were limited to providing vaccines to police officers, teachers, and other essential workers. Friday, Cuomo added those with comorbidities to that list. That will help because many seniors also have comorbidities. But it makes no sense for the state to stop the counties from helping everyone they can. If given more latitude, the counties also could organize mobile drives, and perhaps begin to address seniors who are homebound, and others who cannot easily get to one of the state sites.
On top of that, state and local officials must improve their communication efforts, so seniors know how they can take advantage of new vaccine appointment opportunities. Village, town and county officials, along with the not-for-profit organizations that work with older Long Islanders, can help get the word out. Older residents are also turning to their doctors, who don’t have the vaccine but, with more information from the state, could direct their patients to those who do.
Obviously, this entire effort requires an increased vaccine supply. While President Joe Biden opened the spigot a bit, we don’t have enough doses for everyone and appointments remain difficult to get. But more is supposed to be on the way.
By working together, the Peconic story could be just the first in a series of vaccination wins for Long Island’s seniors.
— The editorial board