De Blasio says NYPD can get vaccines, Cuomo says not so fast

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a plan Wednesday to offer COVID-19 vaccines to most city police officers, only to have Gov. Andrew Cuomo say an hour later that the officers aren't yet eligible for them.

De Blasio said the city hoped to offer the vaccines to 25,000 officers and to provide shots to 10,000 by Sunday.

"We want to make sure that all of these front-line workers, folks who work directly with everyday New Yorkers, folks who do things like having to perform CPR or working in very close proximity, that they’re going to get the opportunity to be vaccinated starting right now, starting today," the mayor said at his daily coronavirus briefing.

But Cuomo said at his own briefing an hour later that most members of the New York Police Department don't qualify for vaccinations yet under the state's guidelines.

"Police who are not health care workers are not yet eligible," Cuomo said. "We need to get the health care population done first because they are the front line, as I mentioned before."

Revised guidelines released by the state Tuesday do not explicitly say that police officers can now be vaccinated, but a de Blasio spokesperson said city officials had been told they could include police, and also correction officers, as front-line workers who are eligible for the shots.

The New York Police Department has about 35,000 uniformed members, but only about 25,000 hold public-facing jobs. A smaller number are emergency service officers who might be considered vaccine-eligible front-line workers under Cuomo's rules.

Patrick Lynch, the president of the Police Benevolent Association, praised the de Blasio announcement about vaccinations as "an important step towards clearing away the red tape and protecting both police officers and the New Yorkers we help every single day." A message seeking comment on Cuomo saying most officers aren't allowed get the vaccines yet was left with the union.

Cuomo and de Blasio, both Democrats, have clashed repeatedly since the coronavirus pandemic struck last spring. When the mayor announced in April that city school buildings would be closed through the rest of the school year, Cuomo responded, "That’s his opinion."

Some states have already put police officers near the front of the vaccine line. Arkansas moved police officers and firefighters up to the first phase of vaccinations this week, and Massachusetts will begin administering COVID-19 vaccine doses to police, firefighters and other first responders on Jan. 11.


Associated Press writers Michael R. Sisak and Marina Villeneuve contributed to this report.

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