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NY to begin scheduling COVID-19 vaccines for seniors, first responders next week

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New York will begin scheduling coronavirus vaccines for first responders, people age 75 and older, educators and others who are part of the state’s Phase 1b distribution plan on Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

The update comes amid a rift between Cuomo and Mayor Bill De Blasio, who for the last several days pleaded with the governor to allow New York City to distribute vaccines to the senior population.

Beginning Monday, the state will bring pharmacies and other physician networks online to begin scheduling vaccines, which Cuomo said likely will be set for weeks from now. 

“Monday, basically is when the registration website will open to make an appointment,” he said. “We’re talking about 4 million people, and even though there are thousands of centers, you don’t want to have 4 million people descending on any center, and we want to do it by reservation.”

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The website will tell users where the pharmacies, doctor networks and mass distributions are, and where to call to make an appointment. On Wednesday, the Javits Center will open as the first mass distribution site. 

Cuomo emphasized that pharmacies and medical networks coming online should prioritize their own workers first, and then focus on the 1a and 1b reservations. He also pleaded for hospitals to continue prioritizing vaccinating health care workers.

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Cuomo said he called on police and fire departments as well as other first responders to work within their own unions to administer vaccines to their employees to free up other distributors for 1b recipients and help quicken the pace.

He estimated that based on vaccine allocation granted to the state each week, it will take 14 weeks to move through Phases 1a and 1b, and that the state will need 4.2 million doses to get both populations inoculated. 

 “We get 300,000 doses per week,” Cuomo said during a press conference on Friday. “At this rate, it will take 14 weeks to do 1a and 1b. Fourteen weeks is an eternity of time.” 

Cuomo said that the state will “allocate vaccines to distribution network proportionally by group and by region” to ensure equality and fairness. For instance, he said that people age 75 and over account for 45% of 1b’s population, so they would receive 45% of the weekly distribution. 

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He called on teachers and first responders to prioritize within their own group who should receive the first doses as they represent a smaller percentage of 1b, so their allocation will be limited. 

New York is on pace to finish vaccinating nursing homes by the end of next week, Cuomo said, but the effort is still lagging among health care workers. The state has administered 479,000 doses of the vaccine so far. 

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