The state has broadly expanded the number of people eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo said far too few doses are arriving to do the job.
Cuomo announced last week that the “1b group,” which includes essential workers like teachers, firefighters and public safety officers, grocery store workers, corrections officers, child care providers, public transit employees, those working or living in homeless shelters, and people at least 75 years old, was eligible to obtain the vaccine beginning this week.
On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that states allow people ages 65 and older to receive the vaccine, and Cuomo said New York would do so.
Of the seven million people in New York who are now eligible to receive the vaccine, 870,000 are education workers, 207,000 are first responders, 100,000 are public safety workers, 100,000 are public transit workers, and more than three million are people 65 and older.
“After 10 long months, the expansion of eligibility for additional New Yorkers to begin making their COVID-19 vaccination plan is a light at the end of the tunnel,” Cuomo said on Monday. “The vaccine is the weapon that will end the war, and as we continue to prioritize healthcare workers as hospital capacity necessitates, New York is proud to have reached this milestone and we strongly encourage all who are newly eligible to schedule their free vaccination appointment as soon as possible.”
At the current rate of 300,000 vaccine dosages being supplied to the state each week, Cuomo said, patience will be required.
“We receive 300,000 dosages per week; that has not changed,” Cuomo said. “The federal government didn’t give us an additional allocation. That’s 300,000 per week. How do you effectively serve seven million people, all of whom are now eligible, without any priority?”
The two vaccines that have been approved for use in the United States require two doses, either three or four weeks apart.
Northwell Health, which is spearheading the distribution efforts on Long Island, partnered with Nassau County and opened several vaccination centers over the last week. Aside from the county’s first center at the Nassau Community College campus in Garden City, other locations now include the Northwell Health Center for Advanced Medicine in Lake Success, Belmont Park in Elmont, a drive-thru center at Jones Beach, and the Town of North Hempstead Yes We Can Community Center in Westbury.
According to Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, the county’s positivity rate was 7.5 percent as of Sunday, one of the highest rates the county has seen since last spring, but a decrease from last week’s rate of 8.6 percent.
“The County has the infrastructure in place to administer COVID-19 vaccines as soon as we receive them from the state and federal government,” Curran said. “We ask residents to remain patient, as demand greatly exceeds supply at this time.”
State health officials urged residents to use the Jones Beach center, which will be open every day over the coming weeks, over the smaller facilities such as local pharmacies.
Despite the expansion of eligibility, Cuomo said, keeping hospital staff members as a priority is a key element to getting everyone vaccinated.
“The biggest capacity element in the hospital system is we’re losing staff,” Cuomo said. “We’re losing staff because the staff is getting sick from COVID. That’s why continued prioritization of the hospital staff is key and in the webinar we said hospitals must continue to prioritize hospital staff.”
Last week, Northwell CEO Michael Dowling said his goal is to have no vaccine doses left over at the end of each week.
“Our goal is to distribute the vaccine safely, equitably and as quickly as possible, but because supply is limited, we encourage everyone to be patient,” Dowling said. “As part of this effort and at Governor Cuomo’s request, we have also convened a Health Equity Task that will be working with local clinicians and community leaders to ensure the vaccine is reaching people in areas where there is a history of health disparities and a high prevalence of chronic diseases that have made them more vulnerable to COVID-19.”
County residents can visit https://www.nassaucountyny.gov/vaccine to check their eligibility for getting vaccinated, schedule an appointment to get vaccinated and learn more information on the vaccines. Appointments are required to get vaccinated.