New York to receive 16 percent increase in weekly vaccine doses: Cuomo

Robert Pelaez
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the state will receive a 16-percent increase in weekly vaccine distributions from the federal government. (Photo courtesy of the Governor's office)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Tuesday that New York will receive a 16 percent increase in coronavirus vaccine doses along with guaranteed doses for the next three weeks.

The action will increase the number of vaccinations the state receives from 250,000 a week to roughly 420,000, Cuomo said.

He said the state had been managing to acquire vaccines on a week-to-week basis. 

Cuomo said the news was confirmed on a call with the National Governors Association, Jeff Zients, the counselor to the president who heads up the COVID-19 task force, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Gen. Gustave Perna, the chief operating officer of the vaccination distribution effort.

Even with the increase, Cuomo said, it would take around 17 weeks to vaccinate the seven million people currently eligible to receive the vaccine.

“We’ve been going week to week and you really can’t plan and schedule when you don’t know what you’re going to get next week,” Cuomo said. “You can’t do it in any orderly way, so knowing what number we’re going to get for the next three weeks is very important because it will bring efficiency to the program that we haven’t been able to implement.”

Of the 10 New York regions on the state’s online vaccine tracker, Long Island had the fifth-ranked percentage of vaccine doses administered with 75 percent. Long Island administered 172,500 doses out of the 229,520 received as of Wednesday, according to state figures. The 75 percent administration figure for Long Island is slightly higher than the statewide 74 percent.

Despite the administration rate being above the statewide average, Long Island had the lowest level of hospital workers who have received vaccinations. Northwell Health, the health care system that is spearheading distribution efforts on Long Island, stressed the need to vaccinate health care workers as quickly as possible.

“As New York State’s largest health system and private employer, Northwell Health remains focused on vaccinating our front-line workers — and each day we inoculate hundreds more of our team members,” a statement from Northwell said. “We do not make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory and expect the rate of vaccinated staff to vary from facility to facility.”

Northwell President and CEO Michael Dowling said roughly 43,000 of the 75,000 Northwell Health employees have been vaccinated since Dec. 14.  He also said Northwell has the resources to administer 10,000 doses per day, but was averaging  2,000 to 2,500 vaccination doses daily.

Cuomo said recommendations to use the distributed second doses of the vaccine as first doses for others have been circulating. Cuomo said the federal government does not permit that due to potential confusion with scheduling future inoculations.

“If you start using the second dose as the first dose, you have to have a dramatically increased supply because otherwise, you’re going to leave people without a second dose when their appointment is due 21 days later, and that’s why the federal government has not approved that,” Cuomo said.

Of the seven million people in New York who are now eligible to receive the vaccine, 870,000 are education workers, 207,000 are first responders, 100,000 are public safety workers, 100,000 are public transit workers, and more than three million are people 65 and older.

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