In an update to New Yorkers Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state is in a “footrace” to ramp up vaccinations as coronavirus cases surge.
The governor announced the state’s effort to administer vaccinations will be expanded to hundreds of new providers that include pharmacies and labor unions, acknowledging that roll-out of the vaccines at hospitals has been slower than expected.
Statewide, 2.1 million health care workers are eligible to be vaccinated, including 230,000 on Long Island. As of Friday, Mr. Cuomo said 57,384, or 25% of health care workers on Long Island had been vaccinated so far.
He announced the state would be expanding its vaccination distribution effort to include 870,000 education workers, 207,000 first responders and 200,000 transit and public safety employees along with other essential workers and 1.4 million New Yorkers over 75 years old. “This is the group that desperately needs the vaccine,” Mr. Cuomo said of the older population.
Hospitals will continue vaccinating their front-line workers as the state plans to open 20 mass-vaccination sites next week. State officials did not announce where those sites would be, apart from the Javits Center in Manhattan.
Other providers and distributors are expected to begin vaccinations next week, the governor said, announcing that he signed an executive order to expand the list of who can administer vaccinations.
The list now includes LPNs, pharmacists and technicians, midwives, dentists, podiatrists, EMTs and certain eligible medical students.
“This is a very large group of people and it can’t just be show up at the pharmacy,” Mr. Cuomo said.
Those in the 1B category may begin making appointments as soon as Monday, but the governor warned that it could be months until they receive a shot.
Based on the current pace of receiving 300,000 doses each week, it would take the state 47 weeks to achieve herd immunity of 70%, Mr. Cuomo said.
Large union groups, including police officers and teachers, who may have the capacity to administer vaccines themselves, have been urged to do so in order to relieve pressure on the distribution network.
Mr. Cuomo said distribution will be equitable and disagreed with claims that one group — police officers, teachers, or any other essential worker aside from health care — should be prioritized for vaccination over another.
“We’re going to do it fairly,” he said, adding that state health officials will also take steps to ensure doses are administered in an equitable way to low-income neighborhoods as well, which may lack access to doctor’s offices and pharmacies.
“We’re not going to decide in this state who lives and dies based on race and income,” the governor said.
The state Friday reported a slightly lower statewide positivity rate of 7.7%, though hospitalizations and intubations remain on the rise. State officials reported an additional 161 deaths and 1,552 patients on Long Island remain hospitalized.
Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said in a statement Friday that he agrees vaccinations should be expanded.
“While supplies are limited, we will continue to urge New York State to expand its vaccination program as quickly as possible to protect our community, especially our most vulnerable population,” he said.
Mr. Russell said that together with state representatives, he has identified several sites to serve as vaccination facilities should they be needed. “I offered all of our Town’s resources and support and we are ready to go when they are,” he said.
Additional information about the vaccine, as well as a portal to determine if you are eligible can be found online at covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov.