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New York again loosens eligibility requirements for COVID-19 vaccine

FILE - NY Sandra Lindsay, coronavirus vaccine 12-14-2020
Sandra Lindsay (left), a registered nurse and Director of Critical Care at Northwell Health, receives the COVID-19 vaccine Dec. 14, 2020, in the Queens borough of New York City.Flickr / Gov. Andrew Cuomo

(The Center Square) – Thanks to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention making another policy change, New York is opening the COVID-19 vaccine to a wider pool of people even as the supply pipeline remains unchanged.

On Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state will allow all senior citizens as well as immunocompromised individuals to register for a vaccination appointment.

That comes on the heels of the state opening eligibility to seniors age 75 and older and all first responders just on Monday. Now, by adding those 65 and up as well as younger individuals with health issues, Cuomo estimated that about 7 million New Yorkers can now get a shot.

That number, though, may be fluid because he noted what immunocompromised covers needs clarity.

The state is still getting about 300,000 doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines a week, a volume the governor hopes the incoming Biden administration can increase shortly after it takes office next week.

“The policy and the intelligence of the federal system eudes me, but we will do the best we can. But this is a – I happen to be Christian – loaves and fishes situation,” Cuomo said.

It’s leaving the state now to play the role of traffic cop in some circumstances. Moving forward, he wants hospitals to continue vaccinating their staff because he said he fears what happened in Italy, where health care professionals contracted the virus and spread it to patients in the hospital, will happen in New York.

While hospitals should focus on their own workers, county health departments should focus on their county’s first responders.

City health departments and pharmacies should focus on the general population, with Cuomo adding that retail pharmacies can leverage their experience in distributing flu shots to handle the “massive” public population.

Two months ago, New York had a statewide positivity rate of just 2.7 percent. On Tuesday, Cuomo announced a statewide rate of 7.7. The difference between the state’s microcluster regions (8 percent) and the rest of New York (7.6 percent) is almost negligible.

One thing, though, that gives Cuomo some hope is that the numbers are now starting to simmer down from the holidays, when state officials feared gatherings would lead to a dramatic rise in cases. He noted that new hospitalizations are now at about 48 per day. For parts of December, the weekly average exceeded more than 160 daily hospitalizations for a couple weeks.

“If you look at the numbers over the past two weeks, you could see a flattening in the numbers after a spike from Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year,” he said. “We said we would hope, aspire for a flattening in late January. You could argue that you start to see a flattening now.”

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