LONG ISLAND, NY—With New York in a coronavirus footrace, balancing a spiking infection rate with vaccination distribution and battling a new, highly transmissible UK strain, a new reservation system for vaccines will kick off Monday, as well as the expansion of the group eligible for the vaccines, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday.
With hospital distribution not moving as quickly as planned — although, Cuomo said, the rate picked up this week after he said those hospitals that did not use their allocations by Friday would lose them — a new plan was unveiled Friday to accelerate distribution.
Beginning on Monday, the state will add new distribution networks to supplement hospitals. "We are recruiting and organizing thousands of new providers now," he said. The vaccinations will now be distributed at private physicians' offices, through county health centers, urgent care offices, and through the pharmacy network, with 1,200 pharmacies already committed and ramping up next week, Cuomo said. Hospitals will also still be utilized, he said.
Mass distribution sites will be creating, including drive-thrus and a facility at the Javits Center in New York City, which will open Wednesday, Cuomo said. In addition, a strong focus will remain on Black and Latino communities, who were hit hard by the coronavirus; Blacks died at twice the rate of other groups and Latinos, at 1.5 times the rate, he said.
On Monday, the state will begin accepting reservations for vaccines and open up the vaccine process to the next group, 1B, which includes 3.2 million New Yorkers in groups including firefighters, teachers, police, transit workers, and those over 75 years old, he said. However, because supply is limited, those reservations may be for months down the road, he said.
Details on how to make reservations will be released soon.
Weekly vaccine allocations will be distributed depending on the percentage of, for example, firefighters or police in that region, with a focus on fair and equitable distribution, Cuomo said.
"I will argue for fairness for all," he said.
Cuomo said groups such as unions, police, firefighters, and teachers that have the ability to self-administer the vaccine will be asked to do so, freeing up pharmacies and other locations to focus on the 75 and older group, comprised of 1.4 million individuals who are most at risk.
A webinar will be given Monday for all new providers, he said.
The goal is to get vaccines into as many arms as possible, as quickly as possible, with supply remaining a challenge, Cuomo said. Currently, New York receives 300,000 doses of the vaccine per week. To reach herd immunity, 70 percent to 90 percent of individuals needs to be vaccinated, with a total of 14 million vaccines needed, he said. At the current rate, it would take 47 weeks to vaccinate everyone in New York, he said.
The goals remain: Slow the spread and increase the vaccine supply, Cuomo said.
The first group to be vaccinated, 1A, now includes all 1.2 million hospital healthcare workers statewide. Healthcare workers are not only front line heroes but also, need to be vaccinated first because they have the potential to become super spreaders, Cuomo said. Statewide, of the 2.1 million vaccinations needed in New York for healthcare workers, 479,000 have been done, or 23 percent; so far of the 230,000 healthcare workers on Long Island, 57,384, or 25 percent, have been vaccinated, he said.
There are currently 430,000 unused dosages, with 1 million needed to complete 1A and 3.2 million needed for 1B, for a total of 4.2 million dosages needed, Cuomo said. At the current rate, it will take 14 weeks to finish both groups, which will fall on April 16, he said.
A minimum of 70 percent of healthcare workers, with a goal of at least 80 percent, is needed, he said. He added that hospitals should remain open 24/7 to continue vaccinating staff.