Two Cattaraugus County ZIP codes — Conewango and St. Bonaventure — are on a state list of areas with very low COVID-19 vaccination rates.
Dr. Kevin D. Watkins, public health director, shared COVID-19 vaccination rates with the Cattaraugus County Board of Health on Wednesday.
The vaccination rate in the St. Bonaventiure ZIP code is 8.8%, lowest in the county, but is misleading because most students left two months ago.
The other ZIP code on the state list, Conewango, is home to the county’s largest Amish population. “The Amish have never been a fan of vaccinations,” Watkins noted during the board’s meeting at the Old Library.
The county’s vaccination rate trails New York state’s rate of 70% of people with at least one dose.
Watkins said 52.1% of county residents 18 and older have at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. There are 42.8% of the entire population of the county who have received at least one dose.
The county’s seven-day positivity rate is 0.5%, the same as the average of the five Western New York counties, as compared to the state’s seven-day rate of 0.6%.
Watkins sees two explanations for the county’s declining positive rate: First, fewer people are seeking COVID-19 tests and, second, the vaccine is keeping many residents safe.
“We have really turned the corner on the daily positivity rate,” he said. “The CDC continues to recommend COVID-19 vaccination for everyone age 12 and older — given the risk of COVID-19 illness and related, possibly severe complications, such as long-term health problems, hospitalizations and even death.”
Residents in Ellicottville have the best vaccination rate in the county, Watkins said. Besides Conewango, Limestone and Franklinville also have low vaccination rates. Franklinville’s rates, for example, include 7.5% of the 0-19 age group, 23% of ages 20-34, 39.1% of ages 35-64 and 55.2% of those 65 and older. The rates in Limestone are: 12.1% for ages 0-19, 24.6% for ages 20-34, 30.4% for ages 35-64 and 60.6% for those 65 and older.
Watkins said the county’s high rates of unvaccinated individuals is concerning — especially with the COVID-19 variants in Western New York.
The variants, particularly the Delta variant, first isolated in India and now the most prevalent in the U.S., pose a danger because they spread faster and are more likely to result in serious illness and death, Watkins said.
In addition, the variants have figured in more than 100 “breakthroughs” — instances in which vaccinated residents contracted COVID-19.
Watkins said there were 45 people (0.15%) who were fully vaccinated and later tested positive and 61 residents (0.19%) who had one dose. There were also two deaths among breakthroughs. A total of 5,729 residents have been diagnosed with the coronavirus.
Seventeen of the breakthroughs of people fully vaccinated had received the Johnson & Johnson one-shiot vaccine, 15 got the Pfizer vaccine and 13 got the Moderna vaccine.
“It does not give 100% protection,” Watkins said of vaccines. The variants are highly suspected in the breakthrough illnesses and deaths. “For the most part,” he said, “the vaccine reduces the possibility of contracting the virus. The best preventative measure against contracting one of these strains is to get vaccinated.”
Six months ago, Watkins was complaining publicly that rural counties like Cattaraugus County were not receiving enough vaccine. Now, there are not enough arms of people seeking to get vaccinated.
The health department has scheduled another round of vaccination clinics at schools for later this month. “We want to try to get students ages 12-18 vaccinated before school resumes,” Watkins said.
The health department has also supplied many private physicians and medical groups with COVID-19 vaccine in hopes people will be more willing to get the vaccine on the advice of their doctor.
The vaccine is also available at the health department and for those who are homebound, the department will bring the vaccine to their homes.
The county has recorded a 1.9% death rate from the 108 residents who have died from COVID-19 since April 2020, Watkins said.
There are only six active cases in the county as of Wednesday, five of whom are hospitalized and two are on ventilators, according to Watkins. There are three county residents with COVID-19 at Olean General Hospital, one at Bertrand-Chaffee Hospital in Springville and one in Buffalo General Hospital.
For residents hesitant to get vaccinated, Watkins urged them to contact the health department’s COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline at (716) 701-3777, or consult their physician or medical provider for accurate information about the vaccines.
Appointments for vaccinations can be made through the Cattaraugus County website by visiting: https://www.cattco.org/covid-vacc-info or call the COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline at (716) 701-3777.
To register for a free COVID-19 diagnostic test at the county health department, go online to: