By Robert Pozarycki
The Biden administration is giving New York’s COVID-19 vaccination effort another sizable shot in the arm, Governor Andrew Cuomo reported Tuesday.
During a conference call with reporters following his meeting with White House staff, the governor reported that New York state would get another 5% boost per week in COVID-9 vaccine supply over the next three weeks. That’s on top of previously announced increases of 250,000 weekly doses provided to New York during the final days of the former presidential administration.
The Empire State figures to get more than 330,000 Pfizer and Moderna vaccines each week over the next 21 days, Cuomo said. And there may be more doses to come through federal programs supporting community hospitals and pharmacies.
Cuomo said the state is looking to utilize thousands of unused vaccine doses that the federal government directly allocated to nursing homes. Residents and staff members at nursing homes in New York were among the first people in the state to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, and it turns out that the pharmacies directed to administer the vaccine to the nursing homes wound up having a surplus.
“We believe it was over-allocated, so we will be reallocating doses from that program into the general state allocation,” the governor said. “We’re going to work to determine how much that is. Those are excess, unused doses that they don’t need for that program. It could be in the tens of thousands of doses.”
Still, even with more than 2.2 million New Yorkers having received at least the first dose of the two-shot Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, the vaccine supply has yet to meet the demand. With the inclusion of individuals with pre-existing conditions who will become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine as of Feb. 14, there will soon be 10 million New Yorkers in need of the shot — and less than 500,000 doses delivered to the state every week.
In his opinion, Cuomo sees only one scenario that the vaccine supply will meet New York’s demand: the pending approval of the one-dose, Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The pharmaceutical giant has filed for emergency approval with the Food and Drug Administration, which is expected to make a ruling on it later this month.
“The supply will really only increase when and if Johnson & Johnson is approved,” the governor said. “The Pfizer and Moderna vaccine [production is] ramping up, but the ramp up is relatively slow. So we won’t see a major supply increase from Pfizer and Moderna, nowhere near where we would need to make rapid progress. Johnson & Johnson would be a major and significant increase in production.”
As for the current battle against COVID-19, Cuomo reported that the statewide 7-day positivity average was down to 4.3% — the lowest rate since Dec. 1, 2020, and an indication that the post-holiday case surge continues to wane.
New York City’s positivity rate clocked in at 5.3%, with the Bronx having the highest number at 6.8%, followed by Brooklyn at 5.37%, Queens at 5.34%, Staten Island at 4.9% and Manhattan at 3.2%.
Another 138 New Yorkers statewide died of COVID-19 on Monday, Cuomo lamented.