NYU Langone Tells Doctors It May Not Get New Vaccines Next Week

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A major New York hospital system alerted its physicians that it hadn’t yet been allocated Covid-19 vaccine doses for next week and can’t continue its vaccination program without them.

NYU Langone Health has given about 30,000 shots to date, a hospital official said. As of Thursday morning, the health system told its physicians that it hadn’t gotten commitments from New York state or New York City for new supplies next week, according to an email reviewed by Bloomberg News and confirmed by the hospital.

The state and the city are considered separate jurisdictions by Operation Warp Speed, the U.S. government’s program for developing and distributing vaccines. Both have previously allocated doses to NYU, and the health system typically knows how many doses to expect each week by Wednesday, said Andrew Rubin, NYU Langone’s senior vice president of clinical affairs and ambulatory care.

Uncertainty about supplies has frustrated hospitals since the first days of the vaccination campaign. Each week the U.S. government allocates doses to states, which decide how to divide them among hospitals, health departments and pharmacies.

Not knowing how many doses will be available each week has complicated planning, hospital industry officials said. At NYU, administrators warned in the email that the lack of supply could halt vaccinations at the hospital.

“This means we will not be able to continue and/or expand our program,” Rubin wrote in the email. Follow-up doses of the two-shot inoculations “will be received and we will vaccinate all those individuals” who got a first dose, he wrote.

The message encouraged doctors “to direct your patients who complain to the Governor’s office to ask for vaccine to be shipped to area health systems.”

Rubin said in an interview that NYU has been swiftly vaccinating school employees and other front-line essential workers, even ahead of its own patients who are 65 and older. The hospital has no vaccines in reserve except for 1,000 doses for to cover appointments Monday for people who are due for their second dose, he said.

NYU won’t book further appointments until it has doses available, he said, but it has the capacity to administer more than 5,000 doses a day.

“You send me 10,000 doses tomorrow, I will distribute 10,000 doses next week,” he said.

He added that state and city officials have been responsive but he hasn’t been given an explanation for why no doses have been allocated.

Representatives for Governor Andrew Cuomo didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

A representative for New York City’s health department didn’t comment on NYU’s email but pointed to remarks from Mayor Bill de Blasio on the need for more vaccines citywide. De Blasio said Wednesday that even with supplies expected for next week, the city would run out at some point in the week.

“What do we need? We need the federal government, the state government and the manufacturers to step up and get us more supply immediately,” he said.

Expanded Eligibility

Hospitals began vaccinating health-care workers in December under recommendations from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel. But with pressure building to use available doses quickly, many states expanded the groups eligible for immunization.

Anyone 65 and older is potentially eligible to be vaccinated in New York, but the state warns that supplies will be insufficient to meet anticipated demand. A red banner on the state’s Covid vaccine website says 7 million New Yorkers are eligible but the state gets just 300,000 doses a week.

“Limited appointments have filled up quickly,” the message warns. “Currently appointments have been made for the next 14 weeks.”

Some NYU patients received text messages this week noting limited supply of the vaccine and directing them not to call their doctors about it.

Cuomo has said some hospitals weren’t delivering vaccines quickly enough and that the state would expand who can deliver the shots.

“They’re ramping up too slowly,” he said in a news conference last week. While some hospitals were using 100% of their doses, he said others were moving too slowly. “We’re not pleased with the rate of distribution, so we’re going to supplement the networks,” he said.

Opening new administration sites without boosting the total supply of doses could mean spreading supply more thinly across the state.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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