New York state plans to take unused Covid-19 vaccine doses from hospitals and give them to city and county health departments to distribute to people with underlying health conditions beginning Feb. 15, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Friday.
The state has been focused on vaccinating its health-care workers and residents of long-term care facilities with its initial allotments of Covid-19 shots. Now, hospitals will have one more week to use up their doses for employees before the state transfers the vials to local health departments for people with pre-existing health conditions that place them at high risk of serious illness, Cuomo said.
"Hospitals, you have one more week to get your hospital staff to accept the vaccine, and then we'll focus on the comorbidities," Cuomo said at a press briefing.
Cuomo didn't specify which health conditions someone would need to get a vaccine, though he said New York officials are working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to create a "comorbidities list."
In January, the federal government under the former Trump administration suggested states open their vaccine eligibility to people age 65 and older and to those with conditions, like diabetes. The CDC lists a number of conditions, like cancer, heart failure, obesity and pregnancy, that place people at higher risk of serious illness from Covid-19.
The Democratic governor added that hospitals will still be given enough supply to inoculate "who they have to do and who they've scheduled, and any workers who they can convince to take it." Any doses above that amount will be given to local health departments, he said.
So far, New York has administered more than 1.7 million first doses of vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna and nearly 500,000 second doses, according to the Democratic governor. Roughly 7 million New Yorkers are currently eligible to get vaccinated.
Cuomo said the state has used nearly all of the doses it has been allocated so far and are now waiting for next week's supply.
In mid-January, Cuomo expanded the pool of people eligible for vaccines in New York people age 65 and older, as well as for people in certain essential industries, like teachers, police, transit workers. Some residents, however, have struggled to sign up for appointments in New York due to limited supply.
"We do not have a supply that can reach everyone, we understand that," Cuomo said. "So, the prioritization is to reach those people who are most at risk or most essential to this period of time."
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