Cuomo wants his own experts to review COVID-19 vaccine before New Yorkers receive it

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The state will launch a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine administration program (V.A.P.) this winter, when it’s expected the first round of vaccines will be received from the federal government, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Sunday.

The V.A.P. is a strategy to ensure the distribution and administration of a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine to all New Yorkers, he said.

“[For] the vaccine administration program, we have a draft of a plan that we are circulating today that we sent to the federal government that starts the administration planning process for a vaccine,” said Cuomo.

“As you know, we believe there’s going to be questions about the safety of the vaccine, so we put together a special New York task force team of experts. I’m going to ask them to review any vaccine before I recommend it to the people of the state. I think that will give people added surety in the vaccine,” he added.

Cuomo said the state is coming up with the plan on many presumptions because it’s unclear when the state will get the vaccine, as well as which vaccine the state will get, and the amount of doses. Cuomo said states need the help of the federal government to administer coronavirus vaccines.

SO WHO WILL GET THE VACCINE FIRST?

While preliminary, Cuomo said the state would prioritize the vaccinations for essential workers and people at higher risk. In addition, it would look at the prevalence of COVID-19 cases in specific geographic areas.

The first priority would be for high-risk populations and essential health care workers in high COVID-19 areas, according to the prioritization matrix. It would then move to lower-risk populations and other essential workers before it’s available to the general population.

In addition to the prioritization matrix, Cuomo announced five prioritization phases of when New Yorkers would receive the vaccine.

In Phase 1, healthcare workers in patient care settings, long-term care facility workers, and most at-risk long-term care facility residents would receive the vaccine.

Phase 2 would provide vaccine priority for: first responders like firefighters, police, and national guard; public health workers; essential frontline workers that regularly interact with the public; teachers and school staff; childcare providers; other long-term care residents and those living in other congregate settings; and individuals in general population deemed particularly high-risk due to comorbidities and other health conditions.

Phase 3 would allow vaccinations for individuals over 65 years old, and individuals under 65 with comorbidities and other health conditions. Phase 4 would provide vaccines to other essential workers.

The last phase, Phase 5, will offer vaccines to healthy adults and children.

WHERE WILL VACCINE BE ADMINISTERED?

Cuomo said the state is working with its local partners and building a network of facilities where vaccines can be administered.

That includes hospitals, long-term care facilities, urgent care clinics, community health centers, rural health clinics, primary care provider physician offices, pharmacies, local health department sites, schools and other congregate facilities, mobile vaccination units, and mass vaccination sites (gymnasiums, convention centers, etc.).

HOW WILL THE STATE VACCINATION PLAN WORK?

The state will administer a statewide vaccination plan, in concert with the federal government, Cuomo said Sunday.

“The federal government is in charge of producing the actual vaccines and distributing the vaccines, so the state’s position is, we have to wait for the federal government to provide us with the vaccines,” Cuomo said. “What is the schedule? How many? On the state’s side, within the state, we will have one statewide vaccination plan and the local governments will participate through the state. “

There won’t be individual vaccination plans for each county or city in New York, Cuomo explained.

WHAT COULD VACCINATION LOOK LIKE?

Cuomo explained that there will be many challenges ahead for the state to administer coronavirus vaccinations — if people need two doses of the vaccine, if the vaccine requires refrigeration, and the trust issues people will have about the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness.

He added that coronavirus testing has been the “main operational nightmare for state government.” Since the virus started, New York State has conducted 12.9 million COVID-19 tests. In context, Cuomo said the state is expected to perform 40 million coronavirus vaccine doses.

“The test for COVID is the nasal swab and it goes to the laboratory and the laboratory tells you the results,” Cuomo said. “A vaccine is more intrusive. Roll up your sleeve, I’m going to give you a needle. Everything we’ve done, seven months, it took us to do 12 million tests. How long is it going to take to do 40 million vaccinations or 20 million vaccinations? So it gives you a scale of how daunting this task is.”

The National Governor’s Association, for which Cuomo is chairman, sent a letter to meet with President Donald Trump regarding vaccination distribution and administration.

It released 36 questions from governors across the United States asking how coronavirus vaccination programs will work, such as how vaccines will be allocated to states, if there is a national strategy for prioritization when supply is short, and who will pay for the vaccinations.

RED ZONE MAP

New Yorkers can find out if they live in a coronavirus (COVID-19) hotspot using an interactive map Mayor Bill de Blasio launched.

Users can view the map here and enter a specific address, place or intersection.

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©2020 Staten Island Advance, N.Y.

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