New York Says Covid Vaccine Appointments Booked in 14 Weeks, Expansion of Eligibility Stimulating Demand

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Essential workers and people over the age of 75 were vaccinated in New York, United States on January 10, 2021.

Tayfun Coskun | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The New York State Department of Health said appointments to obtain the Covid-19 vaccine are booked for the next three and a half months, filling up quickly after the state expanded the criteria for eligibility to adopt new federal guidelines.

Federal officials have pressured states to expand eligibility requirements for the vaccine to speed up what has so far been a slower-than-expected rollout. On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged states to expand the eligibility of mostly healthcare workers and nursing home residents to all people 65 and older, and younger people whose immune system is weakened.

States that believed to immunize millions of people per week have, in fact, distributed a few hundred thousand two-dose vaccines since federal regulators cleared Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines for public use in mid-December. . Local officials across the United States are struggling to speed up vaccine distribution as millions clamor for a few thousand slots to get first innoculations.

In New York state, vaccine providers across the state are at different stages of establishing their programs, said Jill Montag, spokesperson for the New York Department of Health. Some are not yet administering vaccines, but will open more reservations online when they do, she said. The demand, however, far exceeds the supply of doses.

Cuomo said expanding further to those 65 and over would open up eligibility to about 7 million of the state’s 20 million people.

The Department of Health’s vaccine information site, meanwhile, has an CAPITAL LETTER in red at the top of the page that reads: “ALERT! OVER 7 MILLION NEW YORKERS ARE NOW ELIGIBLE FOR THE COVIDATED VACCINE BUT THE STATE RECEIVES ONLY 300,000 DOSES PER WEEK FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. “

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The alert, which appears to have been posted Wednesday, informs New Yorkers that all appointments have already been booked for the next 14 weeks.

Some public health experts have said expanding the eligibility criteria was the right decision, citing reports that doses were in refrigerators or were deteriorating due to low consumption in priority groups. Others said expanding eligibility so drastically could confuse what is already a Herculean logistical and public communications effort.

CDC officials did not return TBEN’s request for comment.

“States should not wait for the finalization of the prioritization of phase 1a before moving to broader categories of eligibility,” Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said on Tuesday, explaining the new directions . “Think of it like getting on a plane. You could have a sequential order in which you pick up people. But you don’t wait until literally every person in a group is on board before moving on to the next.”

Frustration and anxiety

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo quickly announced on Tuesday that the state would adopt the new directions. The state initially prioritized healthcare workers and expanded it over the weekend to include those 75 and over and some public officials, such as teachers and police.

But by accepting the CDC’s new guidelines, Cuomo warned it would create inordinate demand for the vaccines. He added that if the government is unable to meet the demand for the vaccine, it could cause people to lose “the belief in the competence of government”.

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The state received 1.7 million doses of vaccines from the federal government, about 300,000 doses per week, but was only able to administer 632,473 of those vaccines, according to CDC data collected from states. Even though the state was able to deliver each injection in real time, it will take two to three years to immunize New York’s 20 million people at the current rate.

“So you say to people today, ‘You are eligible,’ but simultaneously you tell people, ‘We don’t have enough doses to get to you for the next six months,’ Cuomo said Tuesday. “Is that helpful? I don’t think so. I think it creates more frustration and more anxiety.”

Montag, of the New York Department of Health, said in a statement that the rapid filling of appointments “is good news.”

“New Yorkers are showing that they trust the vaccine and want to get vaccinated as soon as possible. The challenge is that we can only vaccinate as quickly as the federal supply allows,” she said. “We ask for patience as we implement the largest single vaccination effort in the history of the state. In the meantime, keep wearing your mask, be smart, be careful, and be prepared when a vaccine is available to you.

“Surpass the offer”

Everything points to the federal government increasing dose distribution to states in the coming weeks, said Dr Jen Kates, senior vice president and director of global health and HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation. The Trump administration announced earlier this week that it would start releasing almost any vaccine dose it had in reserve so people could get the second vaccine needed for a full vaccination. And other vaccine makers, like Johnson & Johnson, may soon receive clearance and increase supply.

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“Demand definitely exceeds supply,” she said in a telephone interview Thursday. Kates and his team are closely monitoring the states’ vaccine distribution plans. She said situations similar to New York were unfolding across the country, including Los Angeles County and several counties in Florida.

“If you look at the full group of people who the federal government says should be vaccinated, that’s more people that manufacturers say have doses,” Kates said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 53 million Americans are over 64 and 110 million people between 16 and 64 have comorbidities. If every state decides to adopt the new federal recommendations, even if the supply of doses increases rapidly, millions of people will be stuck in the queue for months, Kates said.

During the first few weeks of the deployment, states’ plans for who eligible to receive the vaccine varied considerably. Kates said the new recommendation appears to be an attempt to bring more states into line with federal guidelines, but added that it was confusing, given that the CDC’s original recommendation was released less than a year ago. a month.

“Now, less than a month later, they come out and say something totally different and almost dismiss it,” she said, adding that the changing guidelines add complexity for state officials. “There has to be a balance between fixing things as we go along and keeping the guidelines.”

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