Suffolk County answers Fishers Island’s Call for C-19 Vaccine

Dr. Chris Ingram greets the Suffolk County group at Elizabeth Field Sunday morning February 28, 2021

Thank you Suffolk County

March 1, 2021
updated March 31, 2021
By Jane T. Ahrens

Getting an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine may seem like a small thing. But, when you live on an island in New York State with a 45-minute ferry ride to New London, CT, and then either another ferry to Long Island with a car and an appointment or a long drive to an appointment in Westchester County or as far as Potsdam, NY, x 2 trips, one realizes just how difficult it is for a Fishers Island resident to get a COVID-19 vaccination!

As the COVID-19 vaccines were getting approvals, the hopeful possibility arose of getting the vaccine doses to the island. IHP (Island Health Project) resident physician Dr. Chris Ingram and IHP office manager Di Shillo began a persistent routine every Monday of submitting their order to New York State for 100 doses.

All the while, so many (no idea of the number) community members sent letters to Gov. Cuomo, Rep. Zeldin, Southold Town Supervisor Russell, and others to emphasize the issues facing the population here.

On Sunday, February 14 Dr. Ingram received a call from Suffolk County’s Chief Deputy County Executive Lisa Black and the Island’s collective spirits were raised. The perseverance of the IHP office and the Suffolk County Executive office was rewarded with permission to move ahead. Initially, this 1st dose was scheduled for Sunday, February 21 – and then it began to snow in Texas…

The ‘event’ was rescheduled for Sunday, February 28 which gave everyone an extra week to finish getting ready.

Transportation is always part of a conversation involving island living. This project included getting the Suffolk County staff, medical team, and additional personnel to the Island with the doses needed. Sanger family members said, “Once we found out that there was a way to get vaccines to Fishers, we immediately contacted PLANESENSE to see if they could help. Fishers is a very important location for a number of their clients. They quickly responded, “how can we help?” David Verani from PLANESENSE donated the hours in a Pilatus plane to fly the vaccination crew over and back from Long Island to Fishers Island on February 28th and March 28th. He wants to assure Fishers Island will be in the best of health and was happy to help out. Kandi Sanger coordinated the details of the trips and all send a great thank you to PLANESENSE for providing the aircraft and personnel at no cost to the IHP.

IHP identified residents for the vaccine as required information was collected and data made ready in the Suffolk County IT format. Fishers Island’s EMTs were trained and certified as inoculators. IHP and the County Executive office and health officials held calls to cover details. The School opened its doors as the POD (Point of Dispensing) location and set up for the event on Sunday. Firefighters were called in to meet not only the County staff at Elizabeth Field but also the Southold Police team coming by boat to the Silver Eel Coast Guard station. Volunteers came forward to make a Grab & Go lunch for the workers. Others made time to assist community members as they arrived and worked their way through their appointments. Suffolk County Chief Deputy County Executive Lisa Black wrote to IHP Board President Susie Parsons on Monday, March 1, 2021:

“It was such a pleasure to be able to fulfill this mission and we are so grateful for the heartwarming welcome. We all left completely inspired as public servants…such a special day. Thank you for all of your hard work to plan for our arrival and distribution of the vaccine. 27 days and counting until 2nd doses!” Lisa Black

Suffolk County Team 

Lisa Black, Chief Deputy County Executive
Dr. Shaheda Iftikhar, Chief Deputy Commissioner of Health Services
Hanaa Ibrahim, Pharmacist
Aubrey Evans, RN
Allison McCann, Intergovernmental Affairs
Scott Mastellon, IT Commissioner, Department of Information Technology
Amy Keyes, Suffolk County Chief of Staff
Kevin Butterfield, Suffolk County Community Affairs
Lauren Barlow, RN
Melanie Sinesi, Suffolk County Community Affairs
Police Officer Steven Niggemeier
Police Officer Aleksandra Klimas-Mikalauskas
Police Officer Jared Gunst

The police officers are all part of Suffolk County’s MedCAT medical crisis action team and were brought to Fishers on Sunday by Southold’s Marine Patrol Officers Kris Dimon and Joseph O’Leary. Additionally, Marc Perez (Principal Programmer Analyst) and Vincent Cramer (Website Manager) also worked on this POD from Suffolk County.

Fishers Island Team

Dr. Chris Ingram
Di Shillo, IHP Office Manager
Dee Ross, IHP Nurse
Jane Ahrens, Editor,
Christian Arsenault, School Superintendent/Principal

This event happened because of the willingness and help of the following additional people on Island and the ongoing support for the IHP-ICB C-19 team who has met tirelessly since March 2020.

The following EMTs trained to become COVID-19 vaccinators and stepped up to help IHP vaccinate people on the island. They were able to complete the 3-4 hour online course very quickly, even given the short notice, and then met with Chris Ingram who trained them Wednesday evening on the practical skills. They were 7 of the 10 vaccinators alongside Dee Ross and the County team who inoculated 257 islanders.

Tracy Brock
Gail Cypherd
Chris Dollar
Carol Giles
Jess Hall
Kapri Thomas
Rebekah Walters

Reception and community assistance at the POD: Heather Burnham, Elizabeth Reid, Staley Sednaoui, Alex Pollock, Jamie Doucette with Jane Ahrens

School: Miguel Mego, and Krystal Murray
Firefighters: John Bergquist, Kenny Ahlman, Bob Brooks, George Horning, Dirk Harris, and Ace Ahrens with Matt Edwards and Tim Hoch.

Lunch Bunch for the 30 POD workers: Lucinda Herrick, Sarah Malinowski, and Claudia DeSimone, plus Gail Cypherd’s delicious chocolate chip cookies, with morning pastries and coffee from FIVM.

Photos captured by Matt Kaelin, Kristopher Dorsett, Lily Starbuck, Jane Ahrens, Alex Pollack, Bob Brooks, and more. Click any image to see a larger version and scroll through the gallery.

Updated March 31, 2021

Additional thank yous to all the Fishers Islanders mentioned above who came back Sunday, March 28, and set up and volunteered at the POD for the 2nd dose. Additionally, Jane Harvey and Meg Atkin also brought food for the workers and Ann Anthony helped with reception. With assistance from Lisa Black in Suffolk, she sent her team again lead by Suffolk Health Commissioner Dr. Gregson Pigott with Dr. Shaheda Iftikhar, Chief Deputy Commissioner of Health Services; Hanaa Ibrahim, Pharmacist; Aubrey Evans, RN; Allison McCann, Intergovernmental Affairs; and Bryan O’Donnell, Suffolk County Department of Information Technology.

The weather was so tenuous on Sunday that Kandi Sanger and the PLANESENSE crew revised the flight plan three times. The final version was executed and the plane landed here at 8:00 am. Because of the ongoing rain storm, the return trip included a journey for the Suffulk group by M/V Popeye (c/o the Shillo family) from West Harbor to Noank, then to the Groton Airport, and finally a safe flight back to MacArthur Field in Islip on Long Island – still much faster than 4 ferries in one day!

Everyone here hopes all our visitors will come back to the island in nicer weather in the near future!

PlaneSense arrives at Elizabeth Field Sunday, March 28, 2021 with the 2nd doses and the Suffolk County team.


On behalf of the Island Health Project, I would like to thank the many people who made the February 28th Covid Vaccination day possible.

Chris Ingram, Di Shillo, Jane Ahrens, Dee Ross, Christian Arsenault, Kandi Sanger, Tommy duPont, Peggy Weymouth, David Verani of PLANESENSE, with the EMTs, and all the others mentioned by name in the story of the day.

Kudos to Chris and Di who persevered with the folks in Suffolk County and got them to understand the unique situation of our location and the inability to get easy access to the vaccinations in NY state.

A special thank you to Lisa Black, Chief Deputy County Executive from Suffolk County who orchestrated this with Chris, Di, and Jane.

And thanks to Town Supervisor Scott Russell for all his efforts on our behalf as well as all those who wrote letters to Congressman Lee Zeldin and Governor Cuomo.

Countless hours of preparation went into this event and we are so grateful to have the dedicated and hardworking folks on our special island who made this happen. How lucky are we? I think we all know.

I hope everyone joins me in thanking all these individuals when you see them.

It does take an island, in this case, two islands!

Gratefully, Susie Parsons, President IHP, with the IHP Board

Island Community Board

Dear Scott,

The Fishers Island Community Board joins with the Island Health Project in thanking you and all the individuals and organizations from the Town of Southhold and Suffolk County for helping make this happen.

Just wonderful.

Best regards, Willard Soper, President, Fishers Island Community Board

Just a few of the many messages received:

Just a great effort and great result. As Susie says “ it takes an island “ and yesterday was just the finest example of teamwork and perseverance. Best to all, Willard

So appreciated by all of our island residents! Another proof of it taking a village – huge, huge, huge thanks to Di, Jane, Chris, our nurses, EMTS, and the rest of the team who coordinated all the efforts!

Thank you to all who helped to make this happen. It is a huge relief to know I have a shot in my arm.  It was so well organized and went so smoothly. Can’t wait for my next one. Meg

Vaccination Day was a huge success. We all owe you all much thanks for making this happen. Best wishes, George

No doubt it was a monumental effort, and please know that we are forever grateful. It was actually quite moving to have shared that experience not with strangers, but with our fellow island residents. It was the greatest of all “town meetings”. Many thanks, John

It was all very well-done…efficient, safe, with MANY volunteers keeping the process smooth; very grateful to IHP for their relentless efforts to get the vaccine here, and to Suffolk County for stepping up.
Thank You! MaryBeth

A big sign of relief was heard across the island when the fog cleared and yesterday morning became a reality. As you see here, so many played a part in this event’s success. And we’ll do it again, same time, same place, March 28,  In 6 weeks we will be a great herd!

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