New York is expanding its network of distributor sites for vaccinations as the vast majority of those who are now eligible for the first dose are yet to receive it, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday announced.
At the same time, the state is moving to open vaccination appointments to a larger pool of people who are classified as essential workers, including police officers, firefighters and teachers as well as people over age 75.
Cuomo indicated on Friday the next phase of distribution — opening up more than 4 million New Yorkers to vaccine eligibility — will begin on Monday with people being able to schedule appointments. But those appointments for the first dose may not be until months from now, Cuomo said.
"To the extent that someone (in phase 1b) says you can come in and get (the vaccine) on Monday? Fine," Cuomo said.
The state will also open 20 mass vaccination sites, including Javits Center in New York City, Cuomo said.
New York has been under 1a of the COVID-19 distribution tier for health care workers and those who live and work in nursing homes.
Both phases are expected to take 14 weeks to complete, Cuomo said.
Cuomo has also signed an executive order to expand the types of professions of who can administer a vaccine to include licensed practical nurses, pharmacists and their technicians, midwives, dentists, dental hygienists, podiatrists, EMTs, and eligible students.
The push comes as New York is now vaccinating people at a rate of 300,000 per week — a pace that will take 47 weeks on the low end to reach 70% of the state's population.
And the move comes as Cuomo has faced pressure and criticism to expand vaccine eligiblity as the virus continues to spread across the state. Cuomo earlier in the week had resisted calls to expand eligiblity, aruging the priority needs to remain with health care workers.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, one of the people who was calling for expanded vaccine eligibility this week, tweeted almost immediately after Cuomo's announcement that the city would start vaccinating people who qualify under 1B on Monday.
New York City has heard enough. We will begin administering shots to City Workers and the elderly in 1B starting on Monday.— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) January 8, 2021
Private doctor networks, county health departments, ambulatory centers, and up to 1,200 pharmacies are being tapped to distribute the vaccine to health care workers, who compromise about 1.2 million in New York.
"We're going to bring in a much larger distribution network to do this," Cuomo said at a news conference.
Cuomo is urging labor unions to set up vaccination efforts on their own in order to alleviate distribution.
The vaccination of health care workers has stalled over the last several weeks, with only 23% of all workers receiving the vaccine so far.