Elderly cancer patient says she’s hit ‘brick wall’ trying to get COVID vaccine in NY

An 83-year-old Long Island woman with cancer says she’s run into a “brick wall” trying to get the coronavirus vaccine this week amid the state’s troubled rollout.

“The people in charge have money but somebody dropped the ball from the top down,” Anne Foley, from West Babylon, said Thursday. “I really am frustrated. I’m almost in tears sometimes. It shouldn’t have been this way.”

Foley, who is a breast cancer survivor and was recently diagnosed with lymphoma, said she’s been trying all week to get an appointment for the life-saving shot — but was thwarted by a tough-to-navigate system and a lack of information.

She says she called the state health department, town officials, pharmacies, her doctors and even her local union — but only received a message that her request couldn’t be processed due to a large volume of calls.

“It’s like hitting a brick wall. There’s no place you can go,” said Foley, who is a retired government worker. “Stop and just take me to the mortuary — because I haven’t got no chance in hell to survive.”

“Please help. Help senior citizens,” she said.

Some local pols in Suffolk County pointed the finger squarely at Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s vaccine plan for being riddled with problems — including inoculation sites that are difficult to get to, glitchy online systems and a failure to communicate eligibility criteria.

It has left scores of New Yorkers age 65 and older — who are now eligible for vaccinations in New York — frustrated and confused about how to get the shots, they said.

83-year-old Anna Foley shows how confusing it is to navigate and register for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment.
83-year-old Anna Foley shows how confusing it is to navigate and register for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment.
Dennis A. Clark

“We find ourselves in utter chaos,” said state Sen. Phil Boyle (R -Huntington) at a press conference Thursday. “This is not a one-off.”

“Millions of New Yorkers have no idea when or where they can receive their life-saving shots and feel totally abandoned by their state government.”

The state began doling out vaccines in mid-December but has come under fire for a sluggish rollout — as has much of the country — and overly-tough restrictions that made most seniors ineligible for the shots until Cuomo caved to pressure this week.

Unlike New York City, which has its own system for scheduling vaccine appointments, Suffolk County’s sparse website just directs users to the state’s portal and helpline. The state sign-up page lists a number of locations that are not open yet or have no spare appointments.

State Sen. Alexis Weik (R-Patchogue) said there’s been a flood of calls to her office by bewildered residents.

Anna Foley is a breast cancer survivor and was recently diagnosed with lymphoma.
Anna Foley is a breast cancer survivor and was recently diagnosed with lymphoma.
Dennis A. Clark

“My office has been inundated with calls from constituents exasperated by the botched rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. Confusing and shifting eligibility, inaccurate websites with broken links, non-existent vaccine distribution sites, and unanswered phone calls are the result of a rollout program that the state had months to prepare for,” she said. “Enough!”

A Suffolk County official told the Post it has run out of vaccine doses for the week, making it difficult to schedule appointments.

“Suffolk County has actionable plans and the infrastructure in place to administer at least 6,500 vaccines across sites located on the West, Middle and East End of the County – we simply need vaccines to be able to get them into arms,” a rep for the county said.

Since the rollout in December and Monday, 47,711 people in Suffolk County have been vaccinated in hospitals, nursing homes and other sites, data shows.

A spokeswoman for the county health department noted the state only has access to 300,000 vaccines per week while 7 million people are now eligible to get them — echoing an argument made by state officials.

But data shows many of the doses sent to the Empire State so far are yet to make it into people’s arms.

The state only opened up its first mass vaccination sites this week — at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, the Expo Center at the Syracuse Fairgrounds and the Westchester Center in White Plains.

But Foley noted that many vaccine sites are difficult for seniors to access because they no longer drive.

“How are we going to get there? Why don’t they open the senior citizen centers to give the vaccine?” she said.

A spokesman for Cuomo on Thursday blamed the Trump administration for a lack of guidance and doses.

“Every state had trouble in the beginning due to a lack of support and planning from an incompetent federal administration,” spokesman Jack Sterne said in a statement.

“Thanks to forward planning, we’ve vaccinated over 730,000 New Yorkers, including many healthcare heroes on the frontlines of this pandemic, and we are rolling out 20 mass vaccination sites across the state, but the limiting factor is lack of supply from the federal government.”

He added, “Rather than running to the nearest TV camera to bash the state, these politicians should join us in a full court press on their Republican colleagues in Congress and the White House to increase supply while they are still in power.”

Additional reporting by Georgett Roberts

Credit: NYPOST

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