UPDATE: Vaccine Program Expands to Essential Workers, Over-75s

Updated: Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced a plan Friday night to expand the Covid-19 vaccination program starting Monday to essential workers and people 75 and older.

The governor said that the state has established a network of additional distribution sites that will supplement the work being done in hospitals to prevent any one hospital from becoming overburdened. The largest group, 3.2 million New Yorkers, will be eligible to receive the vaccine in 1B, including:

  • 870,000 Education workers
  • 207,000 first responders
  • 100,000 public safety workers
  • 100,000 public transit workers
  • 1.4 million people 75 and older

Included in the new covered group are education workers (pre-K through 12 teachers and education workers, licensed and registered child care providers, and school-bus drivers); first responders (local police, State Police, Sheriff’s Office employees, professional and volunteer firefighters); EMS workers (including professional and volunteer paramedics and EMTs); public transit workers (airline and airport employees, passenger railroad employees, subway and mass transit employees, ferry employees, Port Authority employees, and public bus drivers); and public safety workers.

This new network will utilize doctors’ offices, Federally-Qualified Health Centers, county health departments, ambulatory centers and pharmacies to get doses in the arms of eligible New Yorkers. More than 1,200 pharmacies have already committed to participating in this network, with nearly 500 scheduled to come on-line next week.

Providers across the state will begin accepting vaccination reservations on Monday 11 when a centralized state website goes online.

Additionally, the Department of Health is setting up 20 mass distribution sites throughout the state over the next several weeks, with the first of those sites, the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, slated to open its doors on Wednesday, Jan. 13.


Cuomo announced the expanded distribution and administration effort beyond the original pool of healthcare workers, to try to speed up the vaccination rate as concern continues about a variant of the Covid-19 virus and numbers of infections and deaths are growing. It is not known, however, whether vaccinations will be available to all in the newest group on Monday.

“We’re getting 300,000 dosages per week, so the supply is our issue,” Cuomo said. “We’re going to use thousands of points of distribution across the state: pharmacies, doctors’ offices, what’s called FQHCs, community groups that are going to be making special efforts in our Black and Latino communities and poor communities across the state.”

 “To the extent a police force or the firefighters or the teachers or the transit workers can self-administer, that would be great. In other words, police have EMS/EMT, firefighters have EMS/EMT, transit workers have their own health network,” he said. “A lot of the large unions have their own health network. To the extent we can just give them the vaccine and they can self-administer – great, and that frees up the pharmacies in the doctors to do the 75-plus. Right now, we have 2 million health care workers with 900,000 doses in hand.”

 In response, New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta said, “We have advocated that all education professionals — both teachers and support staff, who provide critical services to their communities — be given priority access to the COVID vaccine should they choose to receive it. So it’s welcome news that they can begin scheduling a vaccine appointment next week as part of the state’s 1b priority group. We understand that it will take time to immunize the millions in the 1a and 1b priority groups, and we look forward to the opportunity to learn more from the state on Monday about how NYSUT as a union can play a role in ensuring our members have reliable access to immunization.”

Cuomo also said “Some local governments said they want to prioritize police. They can’t do that. First, some local governments have said, well police are health care workers because police give CPR. First of all, this plan has been out there for months. It’s clearly said, 1a are health care workers, 1b are essential workers like police. Every police officer is trained to do CPR. That doesn’t make very police officer a health care worker. That’s just silly. And when we get to 1b, no local government can prioritize one group over the other. You can’t prioritize police over firefighters, you can’t prioritize police over teachers, and you can’t prioritize police over 75-year-old New Yorkers who have the highest death rate in the state. It is one group and they’re going to be treated fairly and I’m not going to pick police over teachers, over firefighters, over grandpa and grandma and mom in my case at 75-plus. That just will not be allowed, period.”

In addition, Cuomo and eight other governors wrote asked the Department of Health and Human Services to speed up distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Here is the letter.

“As governors, our administrations are fully committed to delivering the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines to our residents as quickly and safely as possible. This work is of the utmost importance to protect the health and wellbeing of America’s working families, so we can return to a strong economy and normal day-to-day activities. We very much appreciate the partnership with Operation Warp Speed (OWS) and are grateful for the vaccines received to date, but our states and residents need more vaccines now. This need is all the more urgent with the onset of the new variant of the virus.

According to publicly reported information, the federal government currently has upwards of 50% of currently produced vaccines held back by the administration for reasons unknown. While some of these life-saving vaccines are sitting in Pfizer freezers, our nation is losing 2,661 Americans each day, according to the latest seven-day average. The failure to distribute these doses to states who request them is unconscionable and unacceptable. We demand that the federal government begin distributing these reserved doses to states immediately.

Reportedly, the holding back of doses has been to prepare to ‘mitigate situations’ in the manufacturing and distribution of vaccines. In December, OWS announced agreements with both Pfizer and Moderna to acquire an additional 100 million vaccine doses from each company, bringing the combined allocations expected to the U.S. government to 400 million doses by the second quarter of the year. These agreements, combined with the expected emergency use authorizations of vaccines from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca later this year, should give you the utmost confidence that the manufacturing pipeline is robust, safe, and capable of protecting a majority of the America public in the coming year.

Our states are ready to work around the clock to ramp up distribution, get more shots in arms, and save more American lives. General Perna, as you have stated before, “a vaccine sitting on a shelf is not effective.” We couldn’t agree with you more. That’s why we are asking for your help now. When we work together, we can end this pandemic and return to a life of normalcy sooner.

Our finest medical researchers have made it crystal clear: if we fail, there will be even more dire consequences for our families, our small businesses, and our economy. This is America. There is no challenge we can’t meet. Let’s work together and get it done.


Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

State of New York

Governor Gavin Newsom

State of California

Governor J.B. Pritzker

State of Illinois

Governor Gretchen Whitmer

State of Michigan

Governor Laura Kelly

State of Kansas

Governor Tim Walz

State of Minnesota

Governor Kate Brown

State of Oregon

Governor Jay Inslee

State of Washington

Governor Tony Evers

State of Wisconsin

State to Penalize Providers Who Violate Covid-19 Vaccine Protocols

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