Supply hurdles plague New York state’s COVID-19 vaccination effort: Cuomo

On Dec. 15, Gina Benvenuto, a registered nurse at Montefiore, became the hospital’s first employee to receive the Pfizer vaccine.
Photos courtesy of Montefiore

By Mark Hallum

The goalpost of reaching 2 million “Phase 1A” healthcare workers and the elderly is going to be a challenge for New York state which, Governor Andrew Cuomo says, the supply is not keeping up with the demand.

Increasing production on the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine needs to increase dramatically, according to Cuomo, who called on the federal government to fast track approval of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine as well.

In order to reach more essential workers, Cuomo asked agencies such as FDNY, NYPD, transit workers and teachers unions to manage the deployment of the vaccine to their members.

“The FDNY in New York City can operationalize and organize their own system. They have their own employees who can do the vaccines to the extent we can have the essential workers use their own employees or their own health system provider to do their own vaccines. That removes a burden from the retail system, if you will, it removes them from the hospital system, right?” Cuomo said. “So, New York City Police Department. They could go to the New York City public hospitals for a vaccine, which would then overload the New York City hospitals, or they could do their own vaccines.”

Cuomo mandated on Monday that hospitals that do not fully deploy their full supply of the vaccine within seven days would be subject to 100,000 fines from the state. The governor said with some hospitals only vaccinating half their workforce, hospitals will be required to report to the state their utilization which would then be posted online.

A public dashboard, however, is a work in progress, Cuomo said.

“Hospitals shouldn’t complain about the transparency, because if you’re doing your job then what do you worry about. And if you’re not doing your job, with a vaccine that can be the matter of life and death, then people have a right to know,” Cuomo added.

The governor additionally threatened to end the allocation of the vaccine to hospitals that do not distribute it fast enough, saying, “use it or lose it.”

In regard to the spread of the United Kingdom variant of COVID-19, known as the 117 strain, testing of the associates of the Saratoga man found positive as well as contact tracing efforts have not uncovered any additional cases because testing can take up to 40 hours for Wadsworth’s lab to process results.

In Monday’s press briefing, Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said the 117 variant could be contributing to the elevated level of infection in the Capital Region.

According to health officials, the UK variant is 70% more infectious, but the severity of infections does not appear to be any different from the strain New Yorkers have come to know all too well and existing vaccines are expected to be effective against it.

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