NEW YORK — In a major reversal, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday announced the state is greatly expanding New Yorkers' eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine — and who can administer it.
The announcement came after Mayor Bill de Blasio had been pushing the governor to change the state rules after hospitals got off to a slower than expected start to vaccinate health care workers.
For days, de Blasio had been pushing Cuomo to ease state restrictions and let a wider category of people become eligible for the limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines.
He made the same request on Friday morning:
"The freedom to vaccinate. This is what it is all about. And you’re seeing this all over the state of New York. We are seeing county executives, public health officials all over the state of New York saying, please give us the freedom to vaccinate,” de Blasio said.
Cuomo has distributed the vaccine strictly to hospitals for health care workers, and nursing homes for seniors who live in congregate settings. These people fall into the category for eligibility known as 1A.
But on Friday, Cuomo suddenly changed his tune.
“We are going to accelerate the distribution. And what we are going to do is add new distribution networks to supplement the hospitals,” said Cuomo.
Cuomo says those new distribution sites will include CityMD, pharmacies like Duane Reade, and private doctor networks. In addition, eligibility will be expended to include the category known as 1B. That is all New Yorkers ages 75 and older, as well as education workers, first responders, and transit workers, starting next week.
In essence, what appears to have happened here is that @NYGovCuomo acquiesced, and has now agreed to greatly expand the distribution centers for the Covid vaccine, as well as who is eligible.— Zack Fink (@ZackFinkNews) January 8, 2021
“On Monday, we will open up a website that will tell you here are the pharmacies in your area. Here are the doctor networks in your area, here is the mass distribution site in your area, call your Walgreens on Main Street and make an appointment,” said Cuomo.
Those in categories 1A and 1B will now be eligible. In addition, 20 sites will open across the state to give vaccinations on a rolling, 24-hour basis, including the Javits Center in Manhattan.
“DOH is going to set up mass distribution sites. Over the next several weeks. For example, we are going to use the Javits Center, which is going to open next Wednesday,” said Cuomo.
.@NYGovCuomo says they will greatly expand the distribution network for Covid vaccines beyond hospitals. Starting next week, @CityMD, pharmacies and private doctor networks will be able to administer the vaccine. Eligibility will also be expanded beyond 1a grouping to include 1b.— Zack Fink (@ZackFinkNews) January 8, 2021
This marks a major shift for Cuomo, who has resisted the mayor’s calls to expand who can get the vaccine. The pace of inoculating health care workers at hospitals have been sluggish because it appears that state leaders did not anticipate how many health care workers would refuse to be vaccinated in the first wave.
-- Zack Fink
Tips to Find Out If You're Eligible for the Vaccine
"If it's one step to eradicating this horrible pandemic, I've done my part!" said John D'Arienzo.
D'Arienzo, a funeral director at the family-owned D'Arienzo Funeral Home in Williamsburg, deals with death almost every day.
After receiving his first dose of Moderna's coronavirus vaccine, this 59-year-old now feels has a new lease on life.
"My support staff was more concerned about getting the vaccine than I was. I went with them for unity. And since we fought as funeral directors for the industry to get the vaccine, I reluctantly went along," D'Arienzo said. "I took it last Monday. No side effects, and I actually feel better that I've done it!!"
Yet while some funeral home workers, health care workers, and residents and staff in nursing homes and other group living facilities are now eligible under state guidelines to receive the vaccine, others considered at high risk of falling seriously ill have not.
But that changes on Monday, after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that those who are next in line will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations as soon as Monday. This includes New Yorkers who are at least 75 years old, first responders, teachers, corrections officers, and transit workers.
"The Department of Health has put together on our website, a very simple process!" said Anita Reyes, the acting assistant commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for the Bronx.
Reyes says the easiest way to find out if you're eligible for a vaccine, and to schedule an appointment in one of the five boroughs, is to log on to NYC.gov/vaccinelocations
Looking ahead, de Blasio says by next week the city will unveil "MyTurnNYC." While many details are not quite clear, the mayor described it as a tool that will help New Yorkers check on their eligibility for the vaccine and the presumed timing for when they can get it.
-- Ron Lee
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