Long Island Leaders Push For Better Covid-19 Vaccine Access

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More than a dozen East End lawmakers sent a joint letter Thursday to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Gov. Andrew Cuomo demanding that the coronavirus vaccine be made more accessible to Twin Forks residents.

All five East End town supervisors, a majority of the area’s village mayors, and all three New York State legislators that represent the Hamptons and the North Fork signed the letter, which detailed the officials’ grievances about Covid-19 vaccine availability.

“The vaccine distribution on the East End, with the new, expanded eligibility categories, is virtually non-existent,” the letter stated. “Our residents, particularly senior citizens, cannot be expected to drive an hour or more to places such as Brentwood, Jones Beach, or Stony Brook, to get the vaccine. While we have submitted many locations in our communities for consideration for the distribution of the vaccine, those suggestions have been ignored.

“We must recognize that at this time, there is not enough vaccine available to meet the demand,” the letter continued. “However, when that vaccine becomes available, the East End must get its fair share. We want to be part of your solution. Our request is simple; work with us now to establish a network of distribution sites across the East End to provide for the convenient distribution of the vaccine to our mutual constituents, as it becomes available. Time is of the essence.”

Derek Poppe, a spokesman for Bellone, agreed that supply remains an issue.

“Suffolk County has actionable plans and the infrastructure already in place to administer at least 10,000 vaccinations a week, the only impediment right now is the current available supply,” he said. “In addition to the vaccine POD in Brentwood, we have identified locations across the county and already have agreements in place to quickly stand up PODs at Suffolk County Community College’s Ammerman Campus and Eastern Campus once the vaccines become available. Just as we worked with all of our partners to stand up testing sites where needed, we will continue to ensure our residents from every corner of the county have access to vaccination sites.”

SCCC’s Ammerman Campus is in Selden and its Eastern Campus is in Riverhead.
The governor’s office did not response to a request for comment on the letter. Cuomo has asked New Yorkers for “patience at an impatient time” as the state waits for increases in vaccine allocations from the federal government to meet high demand.

Wading River resident Dino DiIorio said he and his family have spent many hours trying to get a vaccination appointment for his mother, 83-year-old Helena DiIorio, who has a rare, severe lung infection. Helena’s medical specialists agree she should be “top of the list” for the vaccine, Dino said. However, individual doctors cannot decide this, and Dino has repeatedly been told to register Helena through an online form. So far, all appointments have been taken.

“It is vital that she does not contract Covid-19 because she would not be able to survive it,” Dino said. “She needs this vaccine. But those 75 or older with medical conditions are now competing with hundreds of people 65 and older, and you can’t get these appointments.”

-With Briana Bonfiglio

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