NEW YORK — Municipalities and local governments across the state are permitted to expand COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to other groups of prioritized essential workers, officials said Tuesday, after President Joe Biden announced the federal government would increase weekly vaccine allocation to states.
The increase brings New York’s weekly shipment to initial totals promised under President Donald Trump.
Local governments will be able to expand COVID vaccine eligibility to taxi drivers, restaurant workers and staff in developmentally disabled facilities in the coming weeks after Biden’s administration announced Tuesday states would receive a 20% increased weekly vaccine supply for the next three weeks — up from the 16% bump federal officials promised to states one week ago.
“Local governments across the state are getting more in a slightly different population and in different positions,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during a briefing in Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon. “Suffolk County is a little different than Erie County. Rochester is a little different than Binghamton. They are in different situations and we want to give them more flexibility.”
About 7.1 million New Yorkers are eligible to schedule an appointment to be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, including health care workers, police, firefighters and other first responders, teachers and people over age 65.
New York received about 250,000 doses of the COVID vaccine each week for most of January, or about 50,000 fewer doses than the 300,000 initially anticipated in each federal shipment.
The state received its expected 300,000 weekly doses, distributed by the federal government based on population, in late December. A 20% increase of roughly 250,000 is 50,000, returning New York’s weekly vaccine shipments to expected December totals.
“Knowing what we get three weeks in advance is very helpful,” Cuomo said. “Knowing that we’re going to get an increase is very helpful.”
Delivery of the eighth week’s allocation from the federal government begins mid-week. Increased vaccine shipments are expected to begin next week, officials said.
The 20% increase over three weeks is expected to increase the state’s vaccine supply by 5%, Cuomo said.
Supply continues to be the state’s main issue distributing vaccines quickly and efficiently. It will take more than six months to immunize 7 million New Yorkers at 300,000 doses of approved drugmakers’ Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccine each week.
Private pharmacies prioritizing vaccinating New Yorkers ages 65 and older will now receive an additional 10%, or about 30,000 doses, directly from the federal government to supplement the state’s dosages.
“Private pharmacies going forward will have more,” Cuomo said. “The federal government is starting its own program where they’re going to supply private pharmacies also, which will expand the private pharmacy network. ...There’s a belief that the private pharmacies can be a significant distribution model.”
Biden’s administration announced the increase Tuesday morning on a conference call with the National Governors Association, which Cuomo chairs.
The state administered more than 91% of its COVID-19 vaccine dosages received from the federal government as of noon Tuesday, or 1,414,241 first-dose vaccinations and 76% of first and second doses at 725,050 injections.
Vaccination of doctors, nurses and health workers varies in each of the state’s nearly 200 hospitals, with some hospitals reporting 100% vaccination rates of frontline medical staff and others distributing about 40% of their allocation to date.
“We still have a differential, and it’s a dramatic differential,” Cuomo said. “It’s all but inexplicable. Hospitals within the same region go from 100% to 40%. How can you have a situation in New York City hospitals — sometimes in the same system — where some hospitals that are at 100 and some are at 40?”
The governor renewed his call for local health departments and executives to oversee vaccine distribution and management within area hospitals as health worker vaccination rates vary widely by facility in each of the state’s 10 regions.
“The local health departments need to focus on this,” Cuomo said. “Work on those low-performing hospitals to get the vaccinations up and that’ll make a dramatic difference because these will be the hospitals that will get into trouble if we have a significant outbreak in COVID again. So, please, local health departments, please focus on that.”
For the state’s latest vaccine distribution progress and totals in each region, visit ny.gov/vaccinetracker
New York’s COVID positivity rate was 5.5% Tuesday. The state’s seven-day average COVID-19 infection rate remained about flat at 4.96% Tuesday, slightly up from 4.8% Monday.
Statewide hospitalizations increased 64 patients to 8,067 New Yorkers, after a decrease of several hundred patients over the weekend. Hospitalizations are expected to continue to decline in the coming days to reflect the declining positivity rate.
The state reported 146 New Yorkers died from COVID-19 complications Tuesday — flat from 141 fatalities Monday, but a decrease of more than 170 daily virus fatalities through most of January.