A group of state lawmakers on Monday in a letter raised concerns over expanded COVID-19 vaccine eligibility and urged state officials to first ensure health care workers and vulnerable populations living in congregate care facilities will continue to have priority access to the shots.
The concern raised by Sen. Neil Breslin, Assemblywoman Pat Fahy, Assemblyman John McDonald and Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, all Capital Region Democrats, is not dissimilar to issues raised earlier this month by Gov. Andrew Cuomo: The federal expansion of vaccine eligibility for who in the population could receive it could create a bottle neck for the limited vaccine supply.
“You can’t call these healthcare workers and emergency workers ‘heroes’ one day and then deprioritize their place in the vaccine line the next day,” Fahy said. “Simply put, our healthcare heroes have battled this pandemic for almost a full year and face the greatest risk of contracting COVID-19 due to the nature of their work. Further, some of our most vulnerable communities have borne the brunt of this pandemic and must be prioritized moving forward to ensure an effective and equitable vaccination effort, as in the state’s original plan.”
Federal guidance earlier this month expanded eligibility beyond health care workers and people with developmental disabilities in group settings to include essential government workers and people over the age of 75. The move resulted in making more than 7 million in New Yok eligible to receive the vaccine, far outpacing the actual supply for the state.
The Cuomo administration has blamed the federal government for the lack of vaccine supply and hopes the new president, Joe Biden, will be able to pick up vaccine distribution in the coming weeks. The state's weekly allocation of the vaccine has been cut by tens of thousands of doses.
Cuomo has said he wants health care workers given priority access amid fears a COVID-19 outbreak at a hospital or health care center could quickly shut a region of the state down amid a spike in cases. More than 70% of the state's health care workforce has now received at least their first dose of the vaccine.
There have been more than 1.3 million doses of the vaccine administered in the state.
Cuomo on Monday in Buffalo said New York's COVID-19 cases were on the downswing following a holiday surge. The development could lead to an easing of some restrictions put in place to contain the surge.