The state said no Thursday to New York City’s bid to start vaccinating more people against COVID1-9 by using shots reserved for second doses.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has repeatedly suggested the idea and formally asked the state Wednesday for permission. He argues the strategy would provide more people at least some protection, even if it meant delaying the second part of the two-shot regimen for some people.
“Isn’t it the moral thing to do to maximize first doses? And then we’ll double back on second doses, for sure, even if we stretch out the timeline at little bit,” the Democratic mayor said at a virtual news conference Thursday. He said the city would nonetheless ensure it kept “the supply necessary to keep up with those second doses.”
State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker quickly turned de Blasio down.
The federal Centers for Disease Control hasn’t recommended it, and it would “create undue anxiety” for people awaiting second doses, Zucker said in a letter to de Blasio.
“People have worked very hard to get a vaccination appointment, and there is much public anxiety that second doses will not be available on their appointment date,” the commissioner wrote Thursday.
New York City had roughly 140,000 first-dose shots and 321,000 second doses on hand Thursday, according to city statistics. As many as 220,000 doses a week were administered during a peak point last month, but the mayor has said the number could rise to 500,000 if enough supply was available.
The British government has delayed second doses in order to get more first shots into arms, as the U.K. tries to contain a new, more transmissible virus variant first identified in southeast England. Other European countries have criticized Britain’s approach as risky.
Some health experts in the U.S. have suggested officials should at least consider the British strategy, but there is debate among experts. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, was cool to the idea in a CNN interview Thursday.
The federal CDC said last month that doses could be given up to six weeks apart if the recommended interval — three weeks for Pfizer’s vaccine, four weeks for Moderna’s — isn’t feasible. The CDC said it continued to recommend that people get the second dose as close as possible to the recommended time.
If the CDC at some point does recommend tapping second dose stockpiles to extend first shots to more people, Gov. Andrew Cuomo will put that into practice in New York, Zucker wrote.
Statewide, New York has used about 62% of the vaccine doses delivered to the state, according to federal data. About 8% of New York residents have received at least a first dose, according to the CDC.
Both numbers are in line with the national averages.