COVID-19 vaccine shortage: Another 250K doses on the way, but Cuomo pleads for more

State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker (l.) with Governor Andrew Cuomo at a recent press briefing in Albany.
Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Governor Andrew Cuomo said that New York State would be receiving an allocation of over a quarter of a million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine next week — but it’s still far short of what’s needed to meet the sky-high demand for inoculations.

At his virtual press conference Friday, the governor made clear that 250,000 vaccines a week is not enough for the state’s population, adding that New York’s 1,200 vaccine providers could easily accommodate 100,000 vaccines per day. 

“We can ramp that distribution network up very quickly, the 1200 distributors are more distributors than we need,” Cuomo said. “We want to have that distribution network in place because we’re hoping to get more production and I want to anticipate more production.” 

In reality, the governor said that the state is equipped to go up to 2,000 or 3,000 distributors, but “we’re limited by supply.” 

Vaccines are distributed to each region of the state based on population. New York City is slated to receive 43% of the vaccines the government provides. Additionally, each region must distribute the vaccines by three subgroups: healthcare workers will receive 21% of the region’s supply, essential workers will receive 27% of the vaccines and adults 65 and older will receive 52% of the vaccines.  

In order to distribute the vaccines fairly, Cuomo advised that distributors should only schedule appointments for vaccine allocations they are guaranteed to receive. 

“Don’t gamble, don’t bet,” Cuomo said. “Some providers think if they schedule the appointments ahead of time, people will feel comfortable because we have waiting lists. Not if you cancel those appointments.” 

He also said that the three different subgroups should be receiving vaccinations from three different providers, meaning that essential workers should get their vaccines from city and country departments of health, healthcare workers at hospitals and FQHCs and people 65 and older at pharmacies and mass sites. 

“It’s important that the provider follows the prioritization because otherwise they’re giving that group’s allocation to someone else,” Cuomo said. 

The governor said that President Joe Biden’s administration promised to give the country 100 million doses in his first 100 days in office. Since New York State accounts for about 6 percent of the total population, the new plan would allow for the state to get 60,000 doses per day, or about 420,000 per week. 

But even at that rate, Cuomo said, 420,000 doses for the 7.1 million New Yorkers eligible for the vaccine would take 17 weeks to administer. 

“This is going to be a long several months in the distribution of this vaccine,” Cuomo said. “I’m hopeful that the Biden administration can figure out how to increase production and shorten that 17 [weeks].”