In sudden policy change, New Yorkers over age 65 now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine

New Yorkers over 65 years of age will now be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine following a shift in federal guidelines, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced in a conference call with the media Tuesday.

Mr. Cuomo said the change in vaccination policy, which also makes “immunocompromised” individuals of any age eligible, was made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention without any increases in the number of doses being released to the state.

“We’ll do the best we can, but this is a loaves and fishes situation,” Mr. Cuomo said. “We get 300,000 doses a week and now have 7 million eligible people who desperately want the vaccine quickly.”

The governor also said the CDC has not clearly defined who would be eligible under the immunocompromised designation, saying it’s a broad category that will require some more guidance from the federal government.

“I’ll tell you the truth I’m looking forward to the incoming administration to manage this,” Mr. Cuomo said.

Mr. Cuomo said 2.1 million New Yorkers were initially able to receive the vaccine and an expansion this week to essential workers and residents over 75 years of age made 3.2 million more residents eligible. He estimated the latest adjustment, which he called “another major change in a short period of time,” will add 1.8 million more New Yorkers to the list.

Mr. Cuomo said concerns over a more contagious UK strain of the virus forced the change. He said so far 12 New Yorkers and 80 residents nationwide have tested positive for that particular strain.

The governor said despite the federal government having not yet increased the 300,000 doses the state receives, he will move ahead with allowing New York residents over 65 years old to receive the vaccine because he wants to make sure residents have the same opportunities as citizens in other states. Mr. Cuomo estimated that under the current dosage distribution plan it would take about six months to give all currently eligible New Yorkers the two doses required to become fully vaccinated. He said he hopes the incoming administration of President elect Joe Biden is able to increase the number of doses coming to the state to meet the growing demand.

While the New York Times reported that the current federal government will no longer hold back second doses, a move that could alleviate the governor’s concerns, Mr. Cuomo and members of his administration said they had not yet been notified of such a change.

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