New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has prioritized drug recovering addicts as one of the next groups in line to receive this week the limited supply of coronavirus vaccine, ahead of those awaiting that currently reside in nursing homes and frontline workers.
During his virtual press conference, Cuomo announced that New York is expected to receive a combined 259,000 doses from both Pfizer and Moderna before detailing the new rollout of the distribution list.
“We expect another 259,000 vaccines this week; 139,000 from Pfizer, 119,000 from Moderna,” Cuomo said during Monday’s press conference. “Who’s getting the vaccine? We have priority populations. As we have more vaccines, the priority populations expand. We’re going down the list. You have the number one priority, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 more vaccines. You just work your way down that list.”
Cuomo said this week he will be prioritizing urgent care center employees, local health department staff, and residents of the Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS), or addiction treatment facilities. The governor attributed the decision that these places are “congregate facilities.”
“This week it’s going to be urgent care center employees. Individuals who are administering the COVID-19 vaccines, for obvious reasons, including the local health department staff. Resident of OASAS facilities. These are congregant facilities, congregant facilities are problematic. It’s where you have a lot of people in concentration,” Cuomo said.
Currently, the OASAS agency runs 12 treatment centers across the state, with five located in or around New York City, and also certifies and according to its website, monitors “hundreds” of private facilities.
Residents and staffers will also be vaccinated from both the state-run and privately operated rehab centers, as well as at facilities run or licensed by the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities and the Office of Mental Health, according to the state Department of Health.
According to New York’s “vaccine prioritization matrix,” healthcare workers get first dibs on the double dose vaccine, along with “long-term care facility (KTCF) workers who regularly interact with residents,” as well as “most at-risk long-term care facility patients.”
However, according to American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), “Adults over age 65 are in Phase 3 of New York’s five-phase vaccine distribution plan, behind first responders and certain essential workers.”
AARP also noted that that older adults, those over 65, will be unlikely to receive the vaccine until some time next year, seeing as the “the first vaccines are earmarked for health care workers in patient care settings, long-term care facility workers, and the residents most at risk in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Staff members at every hospital in the state are supposed to have access to the first vaccine allocations.”
Older New Yorkers, some 3.3 million people in the demographic among which the disease is most deadly, are in Phase 3 of the vaccine distribution plan in the state.
“They’re in phase 3 of New York’s vaccine distribution plan,” the AARP website stated, “which also includes individuals under 65 with high-risk comorbidities and health conditions.”
The rollout began on Dec. 21, and “the most at-risk” nursing homes were near the top of the list. Additional long-term care residents won’t expect a vaccine dose until Phase 2 of the rollout plan.
On nursing homes, Cuomo stated they “are obviously the most problematic because they’re congregant plus older, vulnerable people,” and would be vaccinated in the upcoming seven days.
“We’ll then continue with high-risk hospital workers, federally qualified health center employees, EMS workers. They’re the people who show up, God bless them, and respond to calls. Coroners, medical examiners, funeral workers, other OMH facilities, et cetera. These are all congregant facilities where you have a number of people in one location.”
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) slammed Cuomo’s plan as “an absolute disgrace” for prioritizing the coronavirus vaccine “over tens of thousands of seniors who have been homebound since the start of the pandemic.”
The Worst Governor in America streak continues …— Elise Stefanik (@EliseStefanik) December 28, 2020
This time prioritizing vaccines for drug addicts over tens of thousands of seniors who have been home bound since the start of the pandemic.
An absolute disgrace👇 https://t.co/jwBvpv3Yec
A spokesperson for the governor’s office disputed Stefanik’s framing of Cuomo’s vaccine rollout plan, noting that nursing home residents would still be receiving the vaccine.
Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) also tweeted criticism of Cuomo, saying the New York Governor “once again failing the people of New York.”
.@NYGovCuomo is once again failing the people of New York.— Rick Scott (@SenRickScott) December 29, 2020
We should be making sure senior citizens, those most vulnerable, and Americans on the front lines combating this virus get priority for the vaccine. https://t.co/qFKNCIuM95
OASAS, the agency that will oversee the vaccination of their residents, responded to the backlash in a statement.
“Unfortunately, there continues to be a stigma against those in recovery when it comes to equal access to health care. These individuals deserve the same access to medical care as everyone else, and those at high risk of COVID should be vaccinated in line with other high-risk populations,” OASAS said in a statement.
Cuomo has faced fierce criticism after more than 6,600 elderly died in nursing homes during the height of the pandemic due to Cuomo Executive Order forcing COVID positive patients to return back to the facilities. The true number of deaths could be anywhere up to 11,000, according to an AP analysis, as a Justice Department inquiry is underway that could determine whether New York is undercounting coronavirus deaths among the elderly in nursing homes.