Frustration mounts over limited vaccine availability, difficult registration process

Eligible Orange County residents are scrambling to make an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine amidst incredibly low supply and a difficult registration process.

| 14 Jan 2021 | 05:17

When eligibility for the COVID-19 availability expanded to include Phase 1B, demand abruptly outweighed supply in Orange County and New York State as a whole.

According to the New York State website, seven million New Yorkers are now eligible, but the state only receives 300,000 doses each week from the federal government.

A lack of consistency

Orange County puts in vaccine requests to the state weekly - but does not know how many doses the county will receive week to week.

County officials and local hospitals, including Garnet Health Medical Center in Middletown and St. Anthony Community Hospital in Warwick, have been directing individuals to or the state vaccination hotline (1-833-697-4829) to find an appointment.

Up until Thursday afternoon, both the hotline and led individuals to information about local availability - which was scarce.

But as the state started unrolling its state-run vaccination sites (none of which are in Orange County), information about local availability was taken down from and the hotline - both of which now state that they are both being used to place appointments at state-run facilities only.

According to a representative from the Orange County Executive’s office, this is a mistake on the state’s end - and Orange County has urged the state to update the site to account for local availability.

As of Friday morning, this is still the case online and via the hotline.

All Orange County hospitals, Cornerstone Family Healthcare and Orange County’s Department of health are expected to receive additional doses, but as of right now, there is no streamlined place to call or check for availability locally.

Cornerstone Family Healthcare is using a waiting list to distribute vaccines to eligible individuals as they become available. To get on Cornerstone’s waiting list, call: 845-563-8000

A spokesperson for Garnet Health Medical Center said they will be posting to social media when they have new vaccination appointments available.

‘How (are) these shortcomings ... even remotely possible?’

Meanwhile, state Sen. James Skoufis said Friday that he was calling on the governor and the state health commissioner to immediately evaluate the situation in Orange, Rockland and Ulster counties, develop a strategy to improve the distribution of vaccines to counties with the longest per capita waitlists and highest rates of infection and standardize the far-too-confusing appointment process.

“Local providers continue to tell me that communication with the Department of Health is often like speaking to a brick wall,” Skoufis said. “Constituents, meanwhile, are being left in the dark as they call around to the vaccine hotline, local counties, medical practitioners, pharmacies, and state legislators for answers. How these shortcomings are even remotely possible given the lead-time that the state had to prepare is difficult to fathom.”

An extra hurdle

The vaccination hotline regularly leads to a prerecorded message regarding high call volume. And starting Thursday, it switched to providing information about available appointments at state-run facilities only - if users could get through at all.

This has made it nearly impossible for those without access to the internet, or those who are unable to use a computer - including many high-risk elderly individuals - to make an appointment.

County Executive Steve Neuhaus directed individuals who are unable to check for an appointment online to call the Orange County Office of the Aging for assistance: 845-615-3700

Finding an appointment

As of right now, individuals are still being directed to to find available appointments. At, click on the “Am I Eligible” link and fill out the form. This then leads to a listing of providers offering vaccinations, along with how to make an appointment at each.

The below links for local hospitals are also expected to be updated by the state as these locations get more doses. However, they frequently crash or state that there are “No Events Available.”

Middletown - Garnet Health Medical Center:

Warwick - St. Anthony Community Hospital:

Kingston - Kate Walton Field House:

Newburgh - Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall:

Port Jervis - Bon Secours Community Hospital:

Suffern - Good Samaritan Hospital:

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

Who is eligible under the state’s Phase 1B classification
As of Jan. 11, the following people are eligible for the vaccine under Phase 1B:
People ages 65 and older
Grocery workers
First Responders and Support Staff for First Responder Agencies
Fire Service
State Fire Service, including firefighters and investigators (professional and volunteer)
Local Fire Services, including firefighters and investigators (professional and volunteer)
Police and Investigations
State Police, including Troopers
State Park Police, DEC Police, Forest Rangers
SUNY Police
Sheriffs’ Offices
County Police Departments and Police Districts
City, Town and Village Police Departments
State Field Investigations, including Department of Motor Vehicles, State Commission of Correction, Justice Center, Department of Financial Services, Inspector General, Department of Tax and Finance, Office of Children and Family Services and State Liquor Authority
Emergency Communication and Public Safety Answering Point Personnel, including dispatchers and technicians
Other Sworn and Civilian Personnel
Court Officers
Other Police or Peace Officers
Support of Civilian Staff for any of the above services, agencies or facilities
State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision Personnel, including correction and parole officers
Local Correctional Facilities, including correction officers
Local Probation Departments, including probation officers
Juvenile Detention and Rehabilitation Facilities
Juvenile Detention and Rehabilitation Facilities
P-12 school or school district faculty or staff (includes all teachers, substitute teachers, student teachers, school administrators, paraprofessional staff and support staff including bus drivers)
Contractors working in a P-12 school or school district (including contracted bus drivers)
In-person college instructors
Licensed, registered, approved or legally exempt group child care
Licensed, registered, approved or legally exempt group child care providers
Employees or support staff of licensed or registered child care setting
Licensed, registered, approved or legally exempt child care providers
Early Intervention therapists and teachers with active service authorizations (as of January 13)
State Office of Children and Family Services:
Licensed or certified residential programs staff and eligible residents
Public Transit
Airline and airport employees
Passenger railroad employees
Subway and mass transit employees (MTA, LIRR, Metro North, NYC Transit, Upstate Transit)
Port Authority employees
Public bus employees
Homeless Shelters
Staff and residents of residential programs for victims of domestic violence and family type home for adults
Staff and residents of unlicensed congregate supportive housing