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In Line for Vaccines

Wed, 02/24/2021 - 18:01


Five hundred people, from a population of at least 22,000, have been vaccinated locally in East Hampton Town for Covid-19. This is far from enough, and allegations are that other parts of the region are faring better. Suffolk Executive Steve Bellone on Tuesday said that he would work to get more county vaccine sites open on the East End; the nearest is in Riverhead. But Mr. Bellone noted that the actual availability of doses would depend on supply. However, it is obvious even now that the system may be skewed in favor of the harder-hit western parts of the county. This may be unpopular, but the distribution strategy is supported in part by the maps of where the virus is most prevalent.

East Hampton Town as a whole has among the lowest proportions of people with Covid-19, in a statistical tie, with about 64 confirmed cases of the virus per 1,000 people. Only the Town of Shelter Island is lower. The East Hampton and Southold numbers may actually be lower; the Covid-19 figures are based on census data from 2010. Neither township has seen a net loss of residents in the past 10 years, just the opposite, which would push the cases per thousand people down even further. In the Suffolk County town with the highest number of cases based on population, Islip, there are nearly 120 cases per thousand, almost double the twin forks’ figure. The takeaway is that it is safer out east.

Nonetheless, people, especially older residents, want to be vaccinated now. After nearly a year’s isolation, there is a sense that enough is enough, and the prospect of a return to normal makes many want to jump to the front of the line. The feeling that East Hampton is not getting enough vaccines is heightened by the fact that about 13 percent of people in Suffolk have had their first shots, while here under 3 percent have. Whether there is adequate availability for less-affected parts of the county, it is politically dangerous for any elected official to appear not to be taking this very seriously. Older voters, the ones most eager for vaccines, are also among the most likely to turn out at the polls.

Returning people 75 and older to the state’s priority list would seem essential. State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. has co-sponsored a bill that would move senior citizens back to the top. It would also make getting an appointment easier; the current online system is beyond the aptitudes of many residents, meaning that younger, more aggressive people may be getting shots ahead of those who might need them the most. As Mr. Thiele put it, “Being computer savvy shouldn’t be the primary basis for getting the vaccine.”

East Hampton Town has opened a temporary vaccination center in an unused former school in Wainscott. But it needs more help from the state and county to get enough shots into older residents’ arms.

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