The top lawmaker on the state Senate Health Committee on Monday blasted the stalled effort to vaccinate New Yorkers and called for greater coordination between state and local officials.
The criticism from Sen. Gustavo Rivera of the Bronx, the chairman of the health panel, comes as more New Yorkers on Monday were eligible to schedule their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The new phase covers police, firefighters and education workers as well as people over age 75.
But the effort has been complicated by confusion on the local level and a lack of available resources. County-level officials have pressed for a larger role in distribution, which state officials have indicated they have granted.
Rivera said he is "appalled by the confusion being sowed" over the distribution.
"Misinformation and neglect of available resources is delaying getting vaccines into New Yorkers’ arms," Rivera said.
"New York City and counties across our state have been developing and running drills for mass vaccinations for years. Yet, localities and providers are being kept in the dark by the state until the last possible minute while people continue to get sick and die. It is not enough to say that is unacceptable. The lack of collaboration between the State and localities like the City of New York has created an unnecessarily confusing and bifurcated system of vaccination sites and scheduling for New Yorkers to navigate."
Local public health officials should have an expanded role in the decision-making process, he said, adding that limiting their flexibility in administering the distribution has made the vaccination effort all harder to execute.
"Confusion, last minute guidance, and an unwillingness to cooperate effectively creates a reluctance among healthcare providers and hesitancy in the public domain," he said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday in the first of four addresses this week outlining his State of the State agenda pointed to the supply problems at the federal level with making enough vaccine doses. New York also plans to use more than 6,000 vaccination sites to expand distribution.
Health care workers were prioritized in the first phase of vaccinations. The incoming Biden administration is expected to free up more doses of the vaccine meant to be a second dose in a bid to ramp up distribution and manufacturing in the coming weeks.