Bill de Blasio on Wednesday clashed with Andrew Cuomo over the slow pace of vaccinations across New York state.
‘Police who are not health care workers are not yet eligible,’ Cuomo said. ‘We need to get the health care population done first because they are the front line, as I mentioned before.’
Under state guidelines set by Cuomo, healthcare workers and nursing home residents and staff were the first groups eligible to receive shots when the vaccination campaign started three weeks ago.
De Blasio appeared to take a swipe at Cuomo earlier Wednesday, telling reporters the priority criteria needs to be urgently expanded so those aged over 75 and all essential workers can be vaccinated.
Just 130,000 NYC residents have received vaccines across since the first vaccine was first approved for use. The mayor says the city hoped to offer the vaccines to 25,000 officers and to provide shots to 10,000 by Sunday.
Revised guidelines released by the state Tuesday do not explicitly say that police officers can now be vaccinated, but a de Blasio spokesperson said city officials had been told they could include police, and also correction officers, as front-line workers who are eligible for the shots.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a plan Wednesday to offer COVID-19 vaccines to most city police officers, only to have Gov. Andrew Cuomo say an hour later that the officers aren’t yet eligible for them
Cuomo said at his own briefing an hour later that most members of the New York Police Department don’t qualify for vaccinations yet under the state’s guidelines
De Blasio, who has repeatedly sparred with Cuomo over slow vaccine administration, said: ‘The way out of this pandemic is to vaccinate and we need the freedom to vaccinate,’ he said.
‘Let’s get to all essential workers – whether you work in a grocery store, food service or you’re a police officer or a firefighter or an educator, we need to reach all those essential workers as quickly as possible. We are looking for that freedom.
‘This city needs the freedom to vaccinate the highest number of people possible and the most high priority people possible – that’s true in cities, towns and counties all over New York state.’
Surgeon General Jerome Adams on Wednesday urged states to ramp up vaccinations by moving quickly through priority lists.
The White House COVID-19 task force is debating telling governors to abandon their rollout plans and hand out shots to anyone in a bid to vaccinate as many as possible.
The sluggish pace is frustrating both health officials and desperate Americans as states scramble to hand out vaccinations amid widespread rollout failures that have been blamed on governors setting complex priorities, chaos in distribution given the freezing temperatures of the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and the lack of staff to administer jabs in overwhelmed healthcare systems.
Dr. Scott Asnis, a dentist, receives a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination distribution center set up by Northwell Health and Nassau County at Nassau County Community College, Tuesday
Revised guidelines released by the state Tuesday do not explicitly say that police officers can now be vaccinated, but a de Blasio spokesperson said city officials had been told they could include police, and also correction officers, as front-line workers who are eligible for the shots
People line up at Nassau County’s first COVID-19 vaccination distribution site Tuesday
But Cuomo immediately shot de Blasio’s idea, saying, ‘We need to get the health care population done first because they are the front line.’
Cuomo is trying to vaccinate health care workers in New York before moving onto the next round of vaccinations, which will be open to essential workers and individuals over age 75.
The governor said Wednesday New York state has only received 950,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine – but needs more than 2.1 million shots to be able to innoculate everyone in nursing homes and hospital staff.
He´s facing pushback against local officials calling for vaccines soon for teachers and first responders, including police and firefighters.
The New York Police Department has about 35,000 uniformed members, but only about 25,000 hold public-facing jobs.
A smaller number are emergency service officers who might be considered vaccine-eligible front-line workers under Cuomo´s rules.
The pace of vaccinations had been so slow in New York that Cuomo on Monday threatened to fine hospitals up to $100,000 if they don’t finish their first round of inoculations by the end of the week.
He also threatened to stop sending the vaccine to hospitals that don’t use their share promptly.
‘Move it quickly. We’re serious,’ Cuomo warned. ‘If you don’t want to be fined, just don’t participate in the program. It’s not a mandatory program.’
Cuomo said on Wednesday that the rate among hospital staff statewide has tripled to 30,000 inoculations per day since Monday.
‘Give them the freedom to vaccinate and they will vaccinate thousands, then tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands, then millions,’ de Blasio said.
‘What they don’t need is to be shamed. What they don’t need is more bureaucracy. What they don’t need is a threat of fines.’
De Blasio says the city is now ramping up its ‘vaccine hubs’ and will have 15 locations by January 16, including five ‘mega sites’.
The sites will have the capacity to vaccinate 100,000 New Yorkers a week.
The ambitious goal comes as the city administered roughly 10,000 shots on Tuesday, according to the most recent data.
As of Wednesday, more than three weeks into the U.S. vaccination campaign, 5.3 million people had gotten their first shot out of 17 million doses distributed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While that is believed to an undercount because of a lag in reporting, health officials are still well behind where they wanted to be.
The slow rollout has been blamed on a multitude of problems, including a lack of funding and direction from Washington, mismatches between supply and demand, a patchwork of approaches by state and local governments, distrust of the vaccine, and disarray created by the holidays.
The U.S. death toll, meanwhile, has climbed past 359,000. COVID-19 deaths set another one-day record at 3,775 on Tuesday.