Older New Yorkers may benefit as feds start shipping more COVID vaccine to pharmacies

PHOTO COURTESY GENERAL ELECTRICSatish Prabhakaran is shown at GE Research in Niskayuna, where he is a tech leader in hybrid electric flight research.

Satish Prabhakaran is shown at GE Research in Niskayuna, where he is a tech leader in hybrid electric flight research.

ALBANY — The federal government Tuesday launched a program to get more doses of COVID-19 vaccine into retail pharmacies nationwide.

In New York, that will mean greater opportunity for older people to get the potentially lifesaving shot in their shoulders, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has ordered that the elderly be directed to pharmacies for vaccination.

During a news conference Tuesday, he said that about 10 percent of each state’s vaccine allocation from the feds would go to drug stores, which will make up the largest component of the massive network of vaccination sites the state has assembled.

The number of vaccination sites far outstrips the supply of vaccine available to the thousands of sites, but there’s also small progress on that front, Cuomo said: “We had a meeting this morning with the White House officials with the governors across the states and we actually got good news. Federal supply will increase again,” the governor said.

The Biden administration previously had bumped states’ supply up 16% for the next few weeks. On Tuesday, the White House said it would bump that up to 22%. Cuomo, without explaining, said the increase was 21% and would round off to 20%. The state in turn will send 20% more to local governments, he said.

Cuomo gave a few other updates on the vaccine and efforts to distribute it:

  • Some governors want to end the federal policy of holding second doses in reserve — they want to instead inject every dose as soon as possible, and hope that the necessary second dose is available when the time comes. The feds aren’t going to do that now but might within the next few weeks, as the new Biden administration gets a better handle on the supply chain.
  • The state has received a total of 2.28 million first and second doses and administered 1.74 million of them, or 76%. The numbers are 84% in the Capital Region and 69% in the Mohawk Valley.
  • Local governments in New York can decide whether to give taxi/ride sharing drivers, restaurant workers and employees of facilities for the developmentally disabled 1B priority status for vaccination. This might on its face seem likely to create the very sort of confusion and chaos Cuomo complained about when the federal government said states could decide on their own whether to give 65- to 74-year-olds priority status for the vaccine — even more eligible people clamoring for a vaccine that is out of stock everywhere. But Cuomo explained that local governments could decide if it makes sense locally.
  • The state will set up a mass vaccination site in Yankee Stadium to test the efficacy of using targeted sites to reach its goal for greater vaccination of Black, Hispanic and poor New Yorkers, who have been getting COVID in greater percentages than the general population and getting vaccinated in lesser percentages. The event will be reserved for residents of the Bronx, which in the 2010 census was by far the least-White and most-impoverished of the state’s 62 counties.

Statewide, 146 New Yorkers died of COVID-19 on Monday, including four in Montgomery County, three in Albany County, two in Washington County, and one each in Columbia, Fulton, Saratoga and Schenectady counties.

The seven-day average positive rate stood at 5.0% statewide, 4.7% in the Capital Region and 4.1% in the Mohawk Valley. At the county level, the positive rate was Albany 5.3%, Fulton 7.5%, Montgomery 7.3%, Rensselaer 4.8%, Saratoga 4.1%, Schenectady 3.8% and Schoharie 4.3%.

A total of 8,067 COVID-positive patients were hospitalized statewide Monday, including 422 in the Capital Region and 221 in the Mohawk Valley.

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