Local hospital missing COVID-19 vaccines – state says it’s due to lack of equipment

Niagara Falls

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB)– The CEO of Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center says their doses were shipped to other hospitals.

Officials at Niagara Falls Memorial say they expected to receive their vaccines yesterday.

But instead, they got a call from Catholic Health to say part of their allotment was shipped to two of their hospitals, while their other vaccines remain missing.

“We’re fully equipped, we have our staff fully trained to administer it, we bought the low-temperature freezer to store it safely. We were all set to receive our shipment. We were supposed to receive it on Tuesday, nothing was received.”

Joe Ruffalo, President & CEO, Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center

Instead, Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center’s CEO Joe Ruffalo says he got a call from Catholic Health.

“What we found out was they were actually allocated a small portion of the vaccines that we were supposed to receive at both Mount St. Mary’s and South Buffalo Mercy.”

Joe Ruffalo, President & CEO, Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center

Under New York State guidelines, once a hospital receives and stores vaccines, they can’t be moved. Because of this, staff members who were originally going to get the shot from Niagara Falls Memorial will have to travel outside of their work hours to be vaccinated.

“In addition, a portion of our hospital allotment was earmarked for our nursing home residents and our nursing home workers which is the most vulnerable, the highest risk population.”

Joe Ruffalo, President & CEO, Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center

“It’s a challenge to move workers, but obviously, it’s much more of a challenge if we actually had to move nursing home residents which you can’t do.”

Joe Ruffalo, President & CEO, Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center

Ruffalo says besides Catholic Health, there’s still a number of vaccines out there meant for Niagara Falls Memorial that is unaccounted for. He’s now reached out to state health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker for help.

“Our plea to the governor’s office and to the commissioner is that for future allocations if we could make sure they get directly shipped to the facility that it’s been allotted.”

Joe Ruffalo, President & CEO, Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center

A spokesperson for the governor tells us Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center did not receive the vaccine because, at the time of their request, the hospital had yet to receive the ultra-low temperature freezer.

Now that they have the equipment, the state has granted the hospital approval for the vaccine.

Ruffalo says the hospital is expecting to receive a shipment of vaccines from Moderna in the near future.

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