New York State to Open Covid Vaccinations to All People 65 and Over, Gov. Cuomo Says

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A person wearing a protective mask stands outside a Covid-19 vaccination site at Bathgate Industrial Park in the Borough of the Bronx in New York, the United States, on Monday, January 11, 2021.

David Delgado | Bloomberg | Getty Images

New York state will agree to new federal guidelines to open up Covid vaccine eligibility to all people 65 years of age and older as well as younger people with compromised immune systems, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday.

In accepting the new guidelines, which Cuomo said came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the governor also criticized the move. He said demand will quickly exceed supply. The state had previously prioritized health workers and recently expanded eligibility to include those 75 and over.

Cuomo said the further enlargement to those 65 and over would open eligibility to about 7 million people, but the state only receives about 300,000 doses per week.

“We will accept the federal guidelines,” Cuomo said on a conference call with reporters. “I don’t want New Yorkers to think that we are not doing all we can to make them eligible for the vaccine, because I want to keep people in New York as calm as we can keep people in these anxious times. . “

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Cuomo said the state still faces a “drip, drip from the faucet of federal dosage availability,” which inhibits the state’s ability to vaccinate people. The federal government withheld more than half of all available vaccine doses to ensure there are enough for the second booster shots needed to achieve maximum immunity.

But the Trump administration will announce on Tuesday that the government will begin distributing those doses to states, a senior administration official told TBEN.

Cuomo noted that the new guidelines could create more headaches in the vaccine rollout. He said there was no sub-priority for people over 90 with health complications, for example. He added that if the current rate of dose allocation continues, it will take about six months to immunize all people 65 years of age and older, as well as other eligible groups such as health workers.

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

Cuomo urged President-elect Joe Biden to review the policy and consider revising it once he takes office next week.

“I think it’s going to create national frustration and suggest the government isn’t capable,” Cuomo said. “And the last thing we need now are people who are frustrated or losing faith in the competence of government.”

The original federal prioritization guidelines were determined by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices last month. CDC director Dr Robert Redfield accepted his recommendation to prioritize healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities. Then states should move on to those 75+ and essential frontline workers, the committee said.

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But the new federal guidelines appear to reject the original recommendations. Dr Bill Schaffner, an epidemiologist at Vanderbilt University, who serves as a liaison with the advisory committee, said in an interview with TBEN that demand for vaccines will now greatly exceed supply.

He added that although these are new federal guidelines, each state is still in the process of determining its own vaccination plan. He said there had been different issues with the deployment in different parts of the country. Some regions of the country face surprisingly high levels of vaccine hesitancy, resulting in higher supply than demand, while others have quickly opened up vaccine eligibility, exceeding supply.

“This is, I think, a symptom of inadequate federal leadership,” Schaffner said.

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