After New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo “had stuck to rigid guidelines that prioritized health care workers, and residents and staff of nursing homes and group homes,” as The New York Times reported on Friday, medical providers were throwing unused vaccines in the trash.
“Across New York State, medical providers in recent weeks had the same story: They had been forced to throw out precious vaccine doses because of difficulties finding patients who matched precisely with the state’s strict vaccination guidelines — and the steep penalties they would face had they made a mistake,” The New York Times reported on Sunday.
On Saturday, the same day 151 New Yorkers died from COVID-19, state health officials modified the guidelines, altering them so medical providers could offer the vaccine to an employee who had contacted a member of the public — but there would have to be extra doses available and the “priority population” would still take precedence.
Cuomo has been backtracking on his “rigid” rules before the Saturday revision; on Friday, he stated that more “essential workers,” including teachers, and New Yorkers 75 years and older could start to be vaccinated on Monday.
Last Thursday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio asked, “Why don’t we just resolve this and give the City of New York the freedom to vaccinate high priority people as we see fit so we can speed up the vaccination process?” Lohud.com reported on Friday:
New York will continue to restrict COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to health care workers and nursing homes despite calls from local governments to provide the shots to police, firefighters, teachers and elderly above 75, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.
At Callen-Lorde Community Health Center in Manhattan, the chief medical officer, Dr. Peter Meacher, thought he was going to receive a small supply of Moderna’s vaccine for his staff; instead, he received 600 doses, forcing him to store over half in freezers.
He wanted to offer the extra vaccines to high-risk patients but was genuinely worried that he would be violating the state’s guidelines. He told the Times, “It’s stressful and frustrating to have vaccine and to be unable to start giving it to our patients as quickly as we would like.”
Meanwhile, Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of the federal Department of Health and Human Services, told states they should not abide by harsh restrictions on the rollout.
“There is no reason that states need to complete, say, vaccinating all health care providers before opening up vaccinations to older Americans or other especially vulnerable populations,” said Azar, adding that states should not “leave vaccines sitting in freezers.”
Dr. Neil Calman, president of the Institute for Family Health, stated, “We’re seeing them in our office, and it just seems like we’re turning them away today just so we can call them back in a week and say, ‘Now you can get your vaccine.’”