LOCKPORT – The president of the Niagara County Board of Health blasted state policies on flu vaccine distribution during Thursday’s board meeting.
Dr. Jerome Ulatowski II of Lewiston, a pediatrician, said he has 1,000 doses of flu vaccine in his office that he can’t use because state rules restrict its use to children in low-income families.
The vaccine came through the Vaccine for Children program, but Ulatowski said that doesn’t seem to mean all children.
“The people who work, pay taxes, can’t get the vaccine they’re paying for,” Ulatowski said. “What will happen at the end of the flu season when I still have vaccine? … I can’t give it to people who are, unfortunately, employed.”
Ulatowski took a shot at Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who said he took action during the flu outbreak to remove all barriers to vaccine distribution.
“I tried to redistribute vaccine for children vaccines and was turned down,” the pediatrician said. “To me, that’s a barrier that was not pulled out.”
Public Health Director Daniel J. Stapleton said it’s not always easy to get vaccine to the poor, either. He said the state turned down the county’s suggestion to offer flu shots at a soup kitchen, even though Stapleton said the county has done things like that before.
“That’s a problem if we’re supposed to serve the most vulnerable,” Stapleton said. “We had to send [the vaccine] back.”
Ulatowski said, “It’s unfair distribution of resources in a city or a state. We’re restricting it based on income. It’s wrong.”
Kathleen Cavagnaro, county director of nursing services, said the county still has some flu shots left in the wake of a special clinic Thursday. She said some adult vaccine for those who have insurance or can pay on their own is still available, along with some Vaccine for Children shots.
Appointments may be made by calling 278-1903, Cavagnaro said.
Four children have died in New York State from the flu this winter, she said.
On another topic, Stapleton reported that the county successfully transferred all its home care patients to the Catholic Health System before the end-of-the-year deadline. “We met that deadline by one day,” he said.
The County Legislature voted last year to sell the county’s home health care license to Catholic Health for $2.65 million.