Cuomo Criticizes Federal Plan for Vaccine Distribution

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo provides a coronavirus update during a press conference in Albany. (Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

At his press conference on November 1st, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York Attorney General Letitia James strongly criticized the federal government’s vaccination program for being insufficient in its coverage of low income communities. They pointed out poorer and working class neighborhoods had higher infection and death rates than wealthier neighborhoods.

“I want to make a broader point today and that’s why I have my colleagues with me. COVID has revealed from the very beginning the underlying injustice and inequity in this society,” said Cuomo, noting that testing rates were higher in wealthier communities than poorer ones. “That’s where the health care infrastructure was and that’s where the people had the resources to take the time or the expense of getting the tests. We worked very hard in this state to make sure we were doing testing in lower income communities, in public housing, et cetera, but the health care infrastructure doesn’t exist in those communities and those communities don’t have the relationship with the health care infrastructure.”

Therefore, Cuomo said, the federal plan of distributing the coronavirus vaccine through local pharmacies, doctor’s offices and hospitals would leave low income communities at risk, as their neighborhoods are less likely to have as many places to get vaccinated than a wealthier one.

“The logistics of distributing a COVID vaccine nationwide are a far larger and more complex undertaking than any annual flu vaccination effort. Secondly, we must also recognize the resource challenges. Billions of dollars have been given to private pharmaceutical companies to develop a vaccine, and yet, how much has the federal government given the state to administer it? Practically nothing. In fact, they are relying on the state using the existing pharmacies, doctors’ offices and private sector to do it all,” said James.

New York is currently the state with the third lowest positivity rate, after the more rural states of Maine and Vermont.

The neighborhoods in New York with the highest percentage rates, designated as “red zones” are currently at a 3.1 positivity rate. The states overall positivity rate is 1.5 percent.