According to a press release from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office Jan. 21, “New York’s vast distribution network and large population of eligible individuals far exceed the vaccine supply coming from the federal government. While the federal government has increased eligibility for the vaccine to include 7 million New Yorkers, the federal supply of vaccines has actually decreased.”
This supply-and-demand gap has stressed the state’s vaccination appointment sign-up system, and added to the stress the elderly already face in this pandemic. Though we heard countless stories this week about the trials and tribulations of getting a COVID-19 vaccination, we were heartened to report on local efforts to assist the elderly with the sign-up process. Several tech-savvy student “Vax Helpers” in Scarsdale are spending hours online searching on behalf of tech-challenged elderly for available slots at dozens of New York’s mass-vaccination administration sites and pharmacies. A group of “vaccine angels” is gearing up to assist similarly in Greenburgh.
What’s worrisome, though, is when and whether there will be enough doses to go around. As of Thursday, Jan. 21, New York’s health care distribution sites have administered 93 percent of first doses received from the federal government — that’s about 1 million shots in arms — and 91 percent of first and second doses, which means just over 100,800 are fully vaccinated. Only 100,000 out of 7 million eligible people. At this rate we will be languishing for another six months — at least.
Kudos to Cuomo for trying to speed things up by seeking to buy vaccines for New York directly from Pfizer, a New York-based pharmaceutical company, but the federal government’s emergency use authorization prohibits the COVID-19 vaccine-makers from distributing or selling doses outside the approved government system.
We are counting on the new Biden administration to take steps to clean up the mess left behind by the former administration, and develop a comprehensive plan to expedite production and the fair distribution of the current and future COVID vaccines.