Western New Yorkers travel out of region for COVID-19 vaccine

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — As thousands of Western New Yorkers attempt to make vaccine appointments, they’re running across the same message on the State’s website: “no appointments available currently.”

“Finding an appointment in Buffalo is impossible,” said Akron resident Jeanne Drier. “I looked everywhere.”

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said last week, Erie County only received 8,000 vaccine doses, which had to be split between the health department, pharmacies and health centers.

“If we’re going to be doing a mass vaccination site, we could do at least 3,000 doses a day, so 8,000 doses is not going to cut it for a week,” he said.

This is why some are now deciding to get in their car and drive hundreds of miles for a vaccine.

John Monnin estimates he drove 750 miles in just over 24 hours this week for vaccine appointments. The Cheektowaga resident had to take his 91-year-old father to Rochester for his second dose on Sunday, then on Monday had his own appointment for his first dose.

“At 7 a.m. I went on the computer and there were three – I believe three – shots available in Potsdam, New York, and by 8 o’clock I was on the road to Potsdam,” Monnin said. “I did speak with a nurse from Potsdam. There’s been a lot of people from Buffalo there.”

Drier is making the trip to Rochester with her mother for their appointments next month. Both she and Monnin tell News 4 it’s worth the drive just to be vaccinated.

“If you’re willing to make the trip, it’s well worth it,” Monnin said.

In a statement, the State’s Health Dept. said they allocate doses based on each region’s population, and at the time, 25 percent of appointments at state-run sites were New Yorkers outside that region.

Marlee Tuskes is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.

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