Cuomo Expands Vaccination Network, Widens Eligibility Criteria to Accelerate Rollout

January 11, 2021 Updated: January 11, 2021

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has expanded the vaccine administration network and widened eligibility criteria to accelerate the statewide pace of inoculations against the CCP virus following a slow rollout and reports that narrow guidelines have led to some vaccine doses being discarded.

Cuomo made the announcement at a Jan. 9 press briefing, in which he said that, starting Jan. 11, the criteria would be broadened to include 3.2 million more New Yorkers, including additional categories of essential workers and people aged 75 and older.

“Over the past week, we have seen hospitals increase their vaccination rates, and I thank them for their efforts, but it’s still not enough, so we’re going to accelerate the distribution,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Before the expanded criteria went into effect, 2.1 million New Yorkers in priority group 1A were eligible to receive the vaccine, including workers in health care settings, as well as seniors living in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. Now people in group 1B can start receiving the vaccine, including education workers, first responders, public safety and transit workers, and seniors.

Also, the network of vaccine administrators will be expanded to include police, fire departments, and pharmacies.

“This new network will utilize doctors’ offices, Federally-Qualified Health Centers, county health departments, ambulatory centers and pharmacies to get doses in the arms of eligible New Yorkers,” Cuomo’s office said in a statement.

“More than 1,200 pharmacies have already committed to participating in this network, with nearly 500 scheduled to come on-line next week. Providers across the state will begin accepting vaccination reservations on Monday, January 11 when a centralized state website goes online.”

Over the next several weeks, the Department of Health will also be setting up 20 mass distribution sites across the state to further the vaccination efforts. Cuomo estimated that it would take around 14 weeks to vaccinate groups 1A and 1B.

A nurse prepares a syringe with the COVID-19 Moderna vaccine for a worker of the New York City Fire Department Bureau of Emergency Medical Services, amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Manhattan on Dec. 23, 2020. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

It comes after reports that New York’s strict vaccination guidelines were leading to vaccine doses being thrown away. Some clinics in New York City, such as the Family Health Center of Harlem, discarded doses that were about to expire, according to The New York Times.

Vials of the Moderna vaccine contain about 10 doses, so the clinic had to open two vials in order to inoculate the 12 people who showed up to their evening appointments, according to the report. A nurse at the clinic found a few other recipients for several of the doses, but after the health department advised her that only members of eligible groups could receive the shot, several doses were thrown away, the report said.

“People don’t hold hands in blocks of 10 to come over to get immunized,” said Dr. Neil Calman, president of the Institute for Family Health, a nonprofit health network that includes the Harlem clinic, in remarks to the outlet. “We just need to enable providers to use their professional judgment to give it to people at their highest risk.”

Speaking at the briefing, Cuomo said that just over half a million COVID-19 vaccine doses had been administered as of Jan. 8.

“So, 33,000 week one, 102,000 week two, 148,000 week three, 259,000 [week four] to date, but the week is not over,” he said, adding that the state receives a supply of 300,000 doses per week.

“We’re hoping for an acceptance rate close to 80 percent with a minimum of 70 percent.”

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