New York expands vaccine eligibility to residents 60+, many others

New York is making a large expansion of the pool of people eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Beginning March 10 at 8 a.m., anyone 60 and older can be vaccinated for the coronavirus, announced Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

For weeks, the threshold had been at 65 and over, with many anxiously waiting for their turn to get a shot in their arm. 

"They can start making appointments tomorrow," Cuomo said, without taking questions. "They can make them at the mass vaccination sites, at pharmacies." 

On Wednesday, March 17, the eligibility list will expand to include more essential worker categories. All public-facing government employees, essential building services workers, and nonprofit workers will be eligible. Public works employees, child service caseworkers, sanitation workers and building service workers are among the newly eligible workers, according to the administration.

"These are the people who are the everyday heroes," Cuomo said.

Some 340,000 New Yorkers were vaccinated last week, bringing the total to over 2.4 million vaccinated in New York City. About 18% of New Yorkers have received at least one dose of a vaccine, in line with the national average, according to the CDC.

While the Biden administration has made an aggressive push to ramp up production and delivery of the vaccines, the demand is far greater than the supply, which fluctuates unpredictably and jeopardizes appointments. On Monday, a city-run site on Staten Island turned people away despite the fact that they had appointments. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city is getting 200,000 fewer doses each week than it should. He and other local leaders have pushed the governor for weeks to lift restrictions on which New Yorkers can get vaccinated and where. Officials applauded Cuomo's move but also called for more transparency on exactly where vaccines are going.

"But to get our vaccination effort running at maximum speed, there’s still so much more that we need," de Blasio said in a statement. "We also need more local control. That means being able to tell our sites and providers the number of doses they’ll get each week, every week, so they can plan ahead to conduct outreach and schedule appointments."

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Also, on March 17, nearly all vaccination sites, including county vaccination sites, can administer the vaccine to those eligible. Current rules, for example, require local health departments to focus on essential workers and residents and staffers at group homes for people with developmental disabilities.

Pharmacies will be limited to vaccinating those 60 and older and teachers.

RELATED: Some in New York forced to revaccinate after vaccine dosages mishandled

Public health experts hope increased vaccinations will drive down COVID-19 infections in New York, which has the nation's highest number of new cases and hospitalizations on a per-capita basis over the last seven days.

The state recorded nearly 50,000 new cases over the past seven days, with upticks in Staten Island and Rockland. Hospitals in Manhattan and the Bronx have disproportionately more COVID-19 patients than the rest of the state: 1,377 as of Sunday, compared with 1,410 for the previous Sunday.

With The Associated Press