New York state will begin vaccinating seniors and non-medical essential workers after NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio excoriated Governor Andrew Cuomo over his strict rules limiting doses to healthcare workers.
Cuomo backpedaled on his strict policy on Friday, after de Blasio complained that thousands of doses were going unused and some were even being tossed out after expiring. Still, the governor warned that herd immunity in New York remains 47 weeks away unless the federal government ‘dramatically increases’ the state’s supply.
At 3pm, Cuomo announced a new statewide order expanding eligibility for the vaccine to seniors over 75, transit workers, teachers and police, with mass vaccination sites planned at pharmacies, doctors’ offices and the Javits Center in Manhattan.
Thirty minutes later, triumphant de Blasio fired off a tweet saying: ‘New York City has heard enough. We will begin administering shots to City Workers and the elderly in [Phase] 1B starting on Monday.’
The shambolic squabble between the two elected Democrats came as New York City has administered just 149,932 doses, or 31 percent of the doses it has received — leaving two-thirds of the doses sitting unused at risk of expiring.
New York City will begin vaccinating seniors and non-medical essential workers on Monday after Mayor Bill de Blasio (left) excoriated Governor Andrew Cuomo (right) over strict rules limiting doses to healthcare workers
Under Cuomo’s state distribution plan, phase 1A of vaccination had been limited strictly to healthcare workers, and the governor was demanding that 70 percent of that group receive the shot before expanding access to other groups.
However, a surprising number of healthcare workers are refusing the shot, and in New York only an estimated 13 percent of that group has received a dose so far.
De Blasio had repeatedly appealed to the governor to relax the rules, saying the city had hundreds of thousands of shots available to administer to seniors. But the governor refused to bend, insisting as late as Friday afternoon that healthcare workers must take priority.
Nursing home residents are also in the priority group in every state, but their vaccinations are being administered through federal contracts with pharmacy chains, and do not count as part of state allotments.
So far, NYC has received 487,375 vaccine doses, but just 149,932 have been administered. The city has a population of 8.4 million.
The seven-day rolling average test positivity rate for New York City zip codes is seen above
Statewide, just 34 percent of the vaccine doses available have been administered. Data shows New York has received 1,134,800 doses and administered 430,000.
On Friday morning, de Blasio made an impassioned speech imploring Cuomo for the ‘freedom to vaccinate,’ saying the city had 270,00 doses that could be immediately be administered to seniors over age 75 if the rules were relaxed.
The mayor argued that seniors would be much less hesitant to take the vaccine than younger healthcare workers.
‘You’re not going to see the same hesitancy as you do with younger folks,’ he said.
‘This is the single most vulnerable category… they have the most need and most desire for the vaccine. They won’t wait,’ he pleaded.
‘We are not allowed by state law to give a single shot to a single New Yorker over 75,’ de Blasio complained.
By the late afternoon, Cuomo had relented and announced the new more relaxed statewide policy.
New York state’s total COVID hospitalizations continued to rise on Friday
The Finger Lakes region was worst hit in terms of per capita hospitalizations
The vaccine reluctance of healthcare workers, who include staff such as hospital clerks and janitors in addition to doctors and nurses, has led to shocking situations in which valuable doses have been thrown in the trash.
In Harlem, a health clinic even had to throw out a handful of doses after nearly half of its 20 staffers refused the vaccine, and the city Health Department told the clinic that it could only vaccinate members of eligible groups, according to the New York Times.
The clinic had just hours to administer the doses after its second Moderna vial containing 10 doses was punctured, and raced to find eligible recipients, but was unable.
‘People don’t hold hands in blocks of 10 to come over to get immunized,’ Dr. Neil Calman, president of the Institute for Family Health, which owns the clinic, told the paper.
The Family Health Center of Harlem (above) was forced to thrown out four doses of the Moderna vaccine after staffers refused the shot and no eligible recipients could be found
‘We just need to enable providers to use their professional judgment to give it to people at their highest risk.’
On Friday, Cuomo said that without increased vaccine supply, it would take 14 weeks to vaccinate New Yorkers in Phases 1A and 1B, the phase that starts on Monday. That would leave other groups out until April 16.
He said he was working with the incoming Biden administration and hopes that New York’s supply from the federal government ‘dramatically increases’ once the Democrat takes office on January 20.
Cuomo said that without such an increase in vaccine supply, New York would take another 47 weeks, or nearly a year, to reach herd immunity levels.