It could take a year to vaccinate the entire population of New York against COVID-19 under the federal government’s plan for the injection, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday, meaning the state would likely have to keep some restrictions in place until that period is over.
Cuomo said he was on a call Thursday with the White House Coronavirus Task Force, which laid out some of the details of the federal government’s plan for the eventual COVID-19 vaccine.
Under the plan, according to Cuomo, the vaccine would exclusively be distributed to the public through public-private partnerships, namely pharmacies that already test for COVID-19. Those seeking the injection would have to visit one of the businesses to receive it.
Cuomo said the plan was “deeply flawed,” and would create a bottleneck in the demand for the vaccine. That would extend the vaccination period by a number of months, he said.
"We know the capacity of the network because we now have it engaged," Cuomo said. "It could take one year to vaccinate the population using only the private sector network. This country can't afford to take one year to do vaccinations."
He said the federal government should, instead, allow states to create their own supplemental vaccination distribution systems and provide the funding for them to do it. That way, the state could dispatch its own personnel alongside the private sector distribution.
New York has already established several COVID-19 testing facilities operated by the state Department of Health and partners in local government. Cuomo wants the same system to be allowed for the vaccine, but wants to be reimbursed for the cost of those efforts.
“I could hire and set up a supplemental network to do schools, mass vaccinations like we now do COVID testing,” Cuomo said. “But the federal government would have to reimburse, because we can’t afford it.”
It’s unclear when a vaccine will be approved for use by the public. President Donald Trump had originally hinted that it could be approved before Election Day, but that doesn’t appear likely given that voters will head to the polls on Tuesday.
When the vaccine is approved, Cuomo has said the state will task a panel of medical experts to evaluate the safety of the injection before it’s allowed in New York.
Michael Bars, a spokesman for the White House, blasted Cuomo's comments in a statement provided Friday afternoon.
“After missing the White House's last 17 consecutive governors-only briefings spanning nearly the past 5 months, including a 75-minute vaccine briefing joined by nearly 50 governors and senior officials overseeing the vaccine development process, it’s no surprise that an absent Governor Cuomo is substantially behind and unprepared as states formulate their vaccine distribution plans," Bars said.
"With four vaccines already in the final stage of trials, it’s unfortunate that the governor would continue to engage in politically-motivated attacks that obstruct the federal planning process than meaningful collaboration to save lives."
Cuomo, as head of the National Governors Association, had sent a list of questions to the White House early this month asking for details on the federal government's vaccine distribution plan.
Those questions were answered today, according to the White House. The federal government plans to have its first batch of vaccines sent to states within 24 hours of approval from the FDA.
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