Amidst Confusion, Cuomo Lays out New York Vaccine Plan

NEW YORK -
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo provides a coronavirus update from the State Capitol on December 28th, 2020. (Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

Governor Andrew Cuomo reiterated the state’s plan for the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines on Monday, as confusion over how inoculation will go forward prompted state health officials to warn the public that New York is still only beginning to vaccinate the population.

“Who’s getting the vaccines? We have priority populations, [and] as we have more vaccines, the priority populations expand,” said Cuomo. “We go down the list.”

Governor Cuomo announced he will sign an Executive Order increasing penalties up to $1 million, as well as revocation of all state licenses, on health care providers who intentionally disregard the state’s vaccine prioritization protocols.

The city will begin to vaccinate urgent care center and health department employees, and nurses distributing the vaccines this week. Approximately 140,000 New Yorkers have been vaccinated so far.

The state’s inoculation system is laid out in a series of phases. In the first phase, high-risk healthcare workers, hospital workers and nursing home residents and staff are prioritized.

This phase has already begun, with Sandra Lindsay, the director of patient care service and a critical care nurse in Long Island Jewish Medical Center, the first person to be vaccinated in the U.S.

Pharmaceutical chains Walgreens and CVS, as part of a federal program to distribute in nursing homes, will be setting up vaccination sites, similar to their annual flu vaccination programs.

The second phase would vaccinate first responders, such as the FDNY and EMT workers. It would also include healthcare workers in health centers and medical examiner offices, and essential workers whose job requires them to come in contact with others, such as grocery store workers, pharmacists, and teachers who have been teaching in-person.

The third phase would include individuals other 65 and individuals with high-risk preexisting conditions.

The fourth and fifth phases would entail other essential workers, and the rest of the population.

The statewide vaccination plan began in December, and is expected to continue through the summer, even fall, of 2021.

The state is still between the first and second phases, and the public is not expected to begin receiving until the spring, though the elderly may be able to expect being vaccinated within two to three months.