After Slow Rollout, New York Will Offer Vaccines At More Sites

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ALBANY, NY (WSKG) – Gov. Andrew Cuomo, bowing to pressure from local governments, is agreeing to expand the state’s vaccination sites for front-line health care workers.

Cuomo initially permitted only hospitals to give out vaccines. But many were unprepared, and the rate of vaccination has been low, with only about half of the doses used nearly four weeks after the first orders arrived.

An Upstate University Hospital worker gets vaccinated. TOM MAGNARELLI / WRVO PUBLIC MEDIA

New York City and the state’s counties pushed to be included in the distribution system, saying they have experience in vaccination programs and have been preparing for a pandemic for years.

Cuomo now says pharmacies, private doctors’ offices and county health departments will be given vaccine doses as they become available. He said for now, only those in what’s known as the 1-A group — essential health care workers — will have access.

Despite calls to expand the vaccine now to others, including police, Cuomo said he is sticking to the state’s prioritization list, likening it to instructions on airplanes that recommend a parent put on an oxygen mask before helping their child.

“Because you are no good to your child if you’re dead,” Cuomo said. “To be blunt.”

The governor said plans are in the works for the next group, known as 1-B, to be vaccinated. That includes anyone who is 75 and older, and 900,000 teachers, police and firefighters. He said the state will set up mass vaccination centers, including the opening of the Javits Center in New York City next Wednesday.

But Cuomo dampened expectations, saying the state is “rationing a scarce commodity,” and he urged patience. He said New York is receiving just 300,000 doses a week. Even if the vaccination plan is run efficiently, at that rate it would take until mid-April to get the first two groups vaccinated.

The governor said 1,200 pharmacies in New York will begin taking reservations on Monday for 1-A and 1-B groups through a website coordinated by the state. But he said don’t be surprised if the appointment offered is not until three months from now.