coronavirus in new york

Use the Vaccine or Lose It: Cuomo Blasts NY Officials for COVID Vaccination Rates

Meanwhile, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio criticizes governor on new vaccination standards

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What to Know

  • While Gov. Andrew Cuomo has continuously heralded the vaccine as the weapon that will end New York's horrific battle against COVID-19, he stressed that the process isn't moving fast enough to keep pace with the increasing rate of viral spread.
  • Because of the rate of the vaccination process, Cuomo is pushing to accelerate the vaccination rollout. Hospitals statewide have only used 46 percent of total allocated vaccine doses thus far as of Monday.
  • To date, the state has administered about 300,000 initial doses of three-quarters of a million doses distributed, according to the CDC and Cuomo.

While Gov. Andrew Cuomo has continuously heralded the vaccine as the weapon that will end New York's horrific battle against COVID-19, he stressed that the process isn't moving fast enough to keep pace with the increasing rate of viral spread.

Because of the rate of the vaccination process, Cuomo is pushing to accelerate the vaccination rollout.

To date, the state has administered about 300,000 initial doses of three-quarters of a million doses distributed, according to the CDC and Cuomo. The governor says the ratio should be higher. Hospitals statewide have only used 46 percent of total allocated vaccine doses thus far as of Monday.

Cuomo said that hospitals are administering the vaccinations as per federal guidelines, however, he directed his some of his frustration regarding the vaccination rate at public officials and their management of the public hospitals in the state, including SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, among others.

Although, he said that the bulk of the state's healthcare system is private, 24 out of the 194 total hospitals in the state are public -- meaning they are managed publicly.

"We need the public officials to manage those public hospitals... I need them to take personal responsibility for their hospitals," he said. "This is a management issue for the hospitals. They have to move the vaccine and they have to move the vaccine faster."

The hospitals that have used the most of its existing allocation the fastest are New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System and Oswego Hospital -- both of which have used 99 percent of its allocated dosages. Meanwhile, on the other side of the spectrum sits Samaritan Hospital, which has used up only 15 percent of its allocated vaccines, according to Cuomo.

State of New York

"You have the allocation, we want it in people’s arms as soon as possible," Cuomo said. “This is a matter of life and death, so yes I’m impatient."

According to the governor, the state's Department of Health has sent out a letter to all hospitals Sunday saying that if the hospitals don’t use the allocation by the end of the end of this week, they can be fined and face the possibility of not receiving further allocations.

To drive the point home, Cuomo further set new vaccine rules on Monday. Any provider must use its inventory this week or receive a fine up to $100,000, he said. Going forward, providers must use all doses within seven days of receipt -- and if they fail to do so, they could be disqualified from future vaccine distributions.

"We’ll use other hospital who can administer it better," Cuomo warned. "From the day you receive the allocations you have seven days to use that allocation."

"This is a very serious public health issue…we are very serious about this," the governor went on to say.

State of New York

Additionally, in order to further accelerate vaccinations, the state will roll out special efforts to supplement the pharmacies and the hospitals, including:

  • The state will establish drive-thrus for public distribution;
  • The state will use public facilities for distribution;
  • The state will recruit additional retired personnel, nurses, doctors, pharmacists.

"Some hospitals do 99% of allocation, they're much better at administering. I want to get needles in arms," Cuomo said. "If you can't do that within seven days, then raise your hand. I'd rather have the faster hospitals [administering]."

Effective Monday, the governor also expanded vaccine eligible groups to include all doctors, nurses and healthcare staff who come into contact with the public. (Not sure if you're eligible? Check the state's vaccine page here.)

New York City also expanded eligible vaccine groups Monday to testing site workers, contact tracers, dentists, physical therapists, NYPD medical staff, specialized clinic workers and outpatient and ambulatory care providers.

Next week, home care and hospice workers and more nursing home staff will be eligible to receive their first doses, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday.

When it came to the criticism that Cuomo directed toward public officials and their lack of vaccine management in public hospitals, New York City spokeswoman Avery Cohen said: "The Mayor has been clear that our public hospitals must show aggressive, forward momentum and get as many vaccines in arms as possible. We've put a plan in place to help [Health + Hospitals] go faster as we wait for the State to allow more people to be vaccinated. But threatening to "revoke" the "privilege" of vaccination from the City's public hospital system is punitive and unnecessary."

"Clearly the governor saw the criticism he was getting from across the state about being overly restrictive as to who can get the vaccine and decided to point fingers," another City Hall source said. "That's a shame, because tough guy antics don't cure COVID."

The mayor himself kicked some of the blame for the slow distribution back up to Albany, saying the state has yet to authorize vaccines for police and teachers.

"We are not allowed legally to give the vaccine to (police and teachers). I want to give them the vaccine right away, when I have that authorization we will be doing that on overnight shifts," de Blasio said.

But Cuomo pointed fingers as well, saying the hospitals have no one to blame but themselves if there are vaccines sitting in cold storage, as people are waiting to receive it. He said the chief reason for the delays was bureaucracy, at public hospitals in particular.

"I do have a problem with a hospital saying they're going to participate, receiving a scarce vaccine, and not administering it," the governor said. “This is a matter of life and death, so yes I’m impatient."

Later Monday night, the mayor said Cuomo's comments were "just arrogance," and told him to trust in those heath care workers who have been working throughout the pandemic to keep people healthy and alive.

"Does he think that our health care professionals are uninterested in vaccinating people? How about trusting the people who have been our heroes? This is what I say the Governor ... respect and trust are health care professionals," de Blasio said in an interview on NY1. "They are the people who do the work. They are the people who know best. They want to get people vaccinated. No one's more motivated than them. Help them, support them. Don't fine them, don't threaten them. Respect them and help them. So, for example, what he said about Health + Hospitals is just blatantly inaccurate."

Copyright NBC New York
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