MAYVILLE – Officials in Chautauqua County are calling on New York State to stop playing politics after they denied the county a federal COVID-19 vaccination site.
As first reported by NBC News, and confirmed to WNY News Now by Chautauqua County Executive PJ Wendel, state officials pushed back against the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who wanted to establish a federally supported vaccination site locally.
The report cites a Biden administration official, speaking under on condition of anonymity, that the state wanted a federally supported site in either Buffalo, Rochester, Albany and Yonkers and not the rural area.
The more urban locations are not only heavily populated, but also make up a greater minority population and are more politically crucial to Democrats than Chautauqua County, the report says.
The Biden Administration has been looking to establish four small vaccination centers across New York state, with counties ranked part of a “social vulnerability index, ” a scale Executive PJ Wendel is familiar with.
“The metrics that were used, the social vulnerability, those are metrics that unfortunately in many cases we rank high in,” explained Wendel. “It is disappointing, this shouldn’t be a matter of politics or anything, it should be if we rank, then get the vaccine here.”
Wendel says the county is ready for mass vaccinations with a plan to use both SUNY JCC and SUNY Fredonia as distribution points.
“We will be able to get these sites up and running, but we don’t have the vaccine right now,” furthered Wendel. “Others feel that if it is a state or federally run program, we are not on top of their list.”
Around a month ago the county held a mass vaccination at SUNY JCC in Jamestown, with hundreds of residents vaccinated.
State Senator George Borrello said he was outraged to hear the news, and that, he will be working with Congressman Tom Reed to get the decision revered.
“Throughout the COVID crisis, the Governor’s ‘follow the science,’ ‘look at the data’ mantra has been a hallmark of his briefings. He has decried others whom he has accused of putting politics over public health. However, his cold political calculations towards a group of New Yorkers he is supposed to represent is the ultimate hypocrisy,” said Borrello. “Today is just one more reminder of why the Senate needs to vote to remove the Governor’s emergency powers, immediately.”
Reed also blasted the state for denying the county vaccine access, pointing the blame at Governor Cuomo.
“These actions aren’t just misguided – they are plain wrong because they directly jeopardize lives,” said Reed in a statement. “Our only motivation in these times should be working together to ensure that there is fair access to vaccination sites across the entire state. This must include Chautauqua County and portions of the Southern Tier.”