New York City administered just over 8,300 doses of the coronavirus vaccine on Monday, a decrease of more than 2,100 shots compared to the number given out seven days ago, and far fewer than the 12,170 jabs given on Wednesday as Gov. Andrew Cuomo pinned the slow pace on poor hospital leadership.
On Monday, Cuomo threatened that hospitals in the state who failed to work through their initial allotment of the vaccine supply would face fines of up to $100,000, and that those who felt overwhelmed should contact the state and opt out of distribution plans.
The threat faced criticism from many, namely New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio, who reportedly said it was “arrogance,” and added that the governor should instead come up with a plan to help the hospitals distribute the vaccines faster rather than punish those struggling.
The two Democrats have sparred throughout the pandemic over handlings of city school closures and implementing coronavirus restrictions, including the closure of restaurants.
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But Cuomo on Tuesday hit back that New York has only received enough allotment to vaccinate half of the health care workers, adding that some of the 194 hospitals in the state have failed to vaccinate 50% of their staff over the last two weeks. He also fought back against the notion that hospitals may be facing vaccine hesitancy among health care workers.
“I have also been deluged with phone calls of health care workers saying, ‘I can’t get a vaccine, and I’m going out there every day and I can’t get a vaccine,’” Cuomo said.
Unlike Florida, Tennessee, Nevada and West Virginia, New York has not opened up the vaccine supply to include members of the public who are over age 75. Cuomo said that hospitals have not been moving quickly enough through Phase 1a of distribution, and added that if a hospital moved through their allocation then they should contact the state, which would move the remaining supply for them to continue vaccinating health care workers.
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When questioned if fining hospitals would result in pulling resources away from public and already-struggling facilities, Cuomo defended the threat and said that it was not meant to be a money-making scheme for the state.
“This is not about money, this is about saving lives,” he said. “We’re not really interested in collecting fines, we’re really interested in – for those hospitals who now have the allocation and are slow — move the allocation, move it quickly. We’re serious and if don’t want to be fined just don’t participate in the program.”
He added that retrieving vaccines from hospitals who no longer want to participate in distribution plans would prove difficult due to refrigeration and transportation logistics.
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“The situation we’re in is we’ve already allocated to all the hospitals, and again as I said before it’s hard to get it back but if a hospital calls up and says I’m going to use this allocation and then I want out – fine,” he said. “That’s totally fine.”
Cuomo said the discrepancy between some hospitals moving through 99% of their supply versus those lagging behind at just 15% is a matter of “some of them, frankly, operate better than others.”