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Cuomo: Vaccines could come as early as the weekend

Gov. Andrew Cuomo held the first of what will now be all-virtual briefings on New York and the coronavirus.
Karen DeWitt NYS Public Radio
Gov. Andrew Cuomo held the first of what will now be all-virtual briefings on New York and the coronavirus.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday offered more details of New York’s COVID-19 vaccination program, saying he expects a state panel to approve the first round of shots by this Friday.

Cuomo said the panel will review the FDA’s expected approval of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines on Friday, but he expects the 170,000 initial doses to be available as early as this weekend.

The state will prioritize heath care workers in high-risk settings, like intensive care units and emergency rooms. The vaccines, some of which require super-cold storage, will be available at 90 hospitals and other facilities around the state that are equipped to keep them frozen at subzero temperatures.

Next on the list are nursing home residents and staff and those who live at other congregate health care facilities.

The state has opted in to a federal program in which pharmacies, including CVS and Walgreens, will administer the vaccines in nursing homes.

Cuomo said that could begin as early as Dec. 21.

“We do expect to have enough to cover all residents and all staff,” Cuomo said. 

The governor said he remains concerned that the vaccine be equitably distributed to Black and brown communities where the death rate from COVID-19 has been higher, and he has been trying to convince the federal Health and Human Services agency to make a special effort.

“The fairness of the vaccine is paramount,” said Cuomo, who added that African-Americans have died of the disease at twice the number of whites, and Latinos are 1.5 times more likely to die.

“We have to make sure that this nation understands that we can’t make the same mistake twice,” the governor said.

Cuomo said undocumented immigrants who receive a vaccine will not have to release any personal data that might trigger deportation. He said the Centers for Disease Control agreed that personal information, like Social Security numbers, are not needed from people who receive the vaccine.

The governor said the post-Thanksgiving surge in infections is resulting in higher rates of cases in recent days, and he said he will announce on Friday a new plan for restrictions to help contain the spread.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.