Cuomo asks White House to advise on eventual vaccine deployment

FILE PHOTO: Small bottles labeled with a “Vaccine COVID-19” sticker and a medical syringe are seen in this illustration
FILE PHOTO: Small bottles labeled with a “Vaccine COVID-19” sticker and a medical syringe are seen in this illustration taken taken April 10, 2020. (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo)

With the enforcement of COVID-19 hotspots in New York City still underway and flu season heating up, Governor Andrew Cuomo is asking the Trump administration to help properly deploy a potential vaccine when the time comes.

Emphasizing in a letter to President Donald Trump a lack of state resources for administering a vaccine while many in the state continue to be resistant to mask and social distancing guidelines, Cuomo said his administration is ready and willing to help the while house deploy a strategy.

The White House, however, released Operation Warp Speed guidance in mid-September that established partnerships with McKesson Corporation and mentioned plans to work with local governments.

“We all hope and pray the vaccine comes sooner rather than later, there will be a question when the vaccine comes out. The first question will be: do the American people trust the vaccine, we’ve anticipated that in New York by putting together a committee of officials who will review the protocol and efficacy of the vaccine,” Cuomo said in a Thursday press call. “You then have to administer it; how do you do that? … Government does not do these large operational complex functions easily or well.”

Early on in the crisis, the White House largely put the onus on states to respond to COVID-19, forcing them to develop their own plans for stopping the spread, but also exhausting state resources for personal protective equipment as well as ventilators and hospital capacity.

As a result, states and cities across the country are now experiencing major funding shortfalls.

“As part of Operation Warp Speed, we have been laying the groundwork for months to distribute and administer a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it meets FDA’s gold standard,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in September. “This in-depth, round-the-clock planning work with our state and local partners and trusted community organizations, especially through CDC, will ensure that Americans can receive a safe and effective vaccine in record time.”

Cuomo issued the letter in representation to the National Governors Association, for which he serves as the chair.

“Governors are willing to assist your Administration’s efforts to ensure a national vaccination campaign is implemented smoothly and efficiently. However, additional guidance and clarification is needed on the roles and expectations of states,” the letter stated. “we request a meeting with you and your team to discuss what is required to ensure a strong partnership, including but not limited to: the delineation of federal and state responsibilities; the funding needs associated with those responsibilities; and the planned supply chain management and vaccine allocation process.”

Specifically mentioned by the governor was a federal plan on supply chain management and a vaccine allocation process, something Cuomo said it would be a “massive undertaking” that could be just “weeks away,” if the work of Trump administration officials is to be taken as credible.

Also on Thursday, Cuomo announced that the state would provide 200,000 rapid COVID-19 tests to New York City schools located in yellow zones near hotspots to help test students and staff for the virus.