New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) on Sunday threatened to sue the Trump administration over its vaccine distribution plan, arguing that it “does not provide an equitable vaccine process.”
Cuomo has previously argued that the Trump administration’s vaccine distribution plan relies too heavily on hospitals, clinics, and drug stores to deliver the vaccine to people, and that communities of color may have limited access to the country’s public or private healthcare systems.
“The Trump administration is designing the distribution plan, and their plan basically has private health care companies administer the vaccines,” Cuomo said during a Sunday morning service in Manhattan’s Riverside Church.
“The president talks about CVS and Walgreens and national chains. Sure. But they are mainly located in rich communities, not in poor communities. My friends, we cannot compound the racial injustice that COVID has already created. And let me be clear—the Black and brown communities that were first on the list of who died cannot be last on the list of who receives the vaccines, period,” Cuomo added.
“I tell you today, if the Trump administration does not change this plan and does not provide an equitable vaccine process, we will enforce our legal rights. We will bring legal action to protect New Yorkers,” the governor said.
“I’m not going to allow New Yorkers to be bullied or abused,’’ he added, referring to President Donald Trump’s recent statement that he may withhold the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to the state over Cuomo’s previous criticisms.
Cuomo “will have to let us know when he’s ready for it because otherwise, we can’t be delivering it to a state that won’t be giving it to its people immediately,” Trump said Friday from the White House Rose Garden.
In a recent statement about the possibility of a vaccine being available, Cuomo said: “Frankly, I’m not going to trust the federal government’s opinion and I wouldn’t recommend to New Yorkers based on the federal government’s opinion.”
Cuomo’s Sunday remarks came after the Trump administration on Nov. 12 struck a deal with pharmacies across the United States for them to help distribute the vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, “as quickly as possible with no out-of-pocket costs.”
On Thursday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said that the plan—supported by the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed—would involve both large chain pharmacies and networks representing independent pharmacies and regional chains.
Partnership with pharmacy chains covers around 60 percent of pharmacies in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. These include names like Albertsons, Costco, CVS, Publix, Walgreens, and Walmart, with a complete list available in the HHS release.
Operation Warp Speed involves cooperation between federal agencies and the private sector to accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.
Partnering with networks will expand vaccine availability to traditionally underserved areas through regional chains and independent pharmacies, the department said.
HHS Secretary Alex Azar noted Thursday that the vast majority of Americans live within five miles of a pharmacy, and that pharmacies not covered by the deal were being encouraged to coordinate with local health departments to provide the COVID-19 vaccine more widely.
“Ensuring access and affordability of the COVID-19 vaccine for all Americans is a top priority for the Trump Administration,” Azar said.
Cuomo on Sunday accused the Trump administration’s plan of “intentionally” burdening communities of color and of hindering their access to a potential vaccine.
While there are currently no COVID-19 vaccines that have been authorized or approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the pharmacy partnership was launched in anticipation of one or more vaccines being approved by the end of the year.
Biotech firm Pfizer and German partner BioNTech SE recently announced that their experimental vaccine candidate was shown to be 90 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 infections.
Tom Ozimek contributed to this report.