Governor Andrew Cuomo, bowing to pressure from local governments, is agreeing to expand New York’s COVID-19 vaccination sites for frontline health care workers.
Cuomo initially permitted only hospitals to give out vaccines. But many hospitals were unprepared, and the rate of vaccination has been low, with only about half of the doses used, nearly four weeks after the first orders arrived. New York City and counties pushed to be included in the distribution system, saying they have experience in vaccination programs and have been preparing for a pandemic for years.
Cuomo now says pharmacies, private doctors’ offices and county health departments will be given vaccine doses, as they become available. He says for now, only those in the group known as 1A group, essential health care workers, will have access.
Despite calls to expand the vaccine now to others including police, Cuomo says he is sticking to the state’s prioritization list for now, likening it to instructions on airplanes that recommend a parent put on an oxygen mask before helping their child.
“Because you are no good to your child if you’re dead,” Cuomo said. “To be blunt.”
The governor says plans are in the works for the next group, known as 1B to be vaccinated. That includes 1.4 million New Yorkers who are aged 74 and older, and 900,000 teachers, police and firefighters. The Democrat says the state will set up mass vaccination centers, including the opening of the Javits Center in New York City next Wednesday.
But Cuomo dampened expectations, saying the state is “rationing a scarce commodity” and he urged patience. He says New York is receiving just 300,000 doses a week. Even if the vaccination plan is run efficiently, at that rate it would take until mid-April to get the first two groups vaccinated.
The governor says 1,200 pharmacies in New York will begin taking reservations on Monday for 1A and 1B groups, through a website coordinated by the state. But he says don’t be surprised if the appointment offered is not until three months from now.