New York Expands Vaccine Eligibility to People 60 And Over

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday said he would lower the age for Covid-19 vaccine eligibility to 60 years old from 65 on March 10, as states qualify more groups in response to increasing supply from the federal government.

Essential in-person workers from government agencies and nonprofits will be able to get the shots starting March 17. Public-facing building-service workers also will be eligible, Cuomo said Tuesday while visiting a vaccine site at the New York State Fair in Syracuse. This includes sanitation, motor-vehicles and election workers, county clerks, government inspectors and caseworkers.

“They are essential for us to continue operating,” he said.

The governor, 63, said he would personally make an appointment to take the vaccine now that his age group will be eligible.

Governors across the country have shifted priorities on who should join the vaccination line as supply has increased and the Johnson & Johnson shot was added into states’ arsenals. In January, a dozen states joined the 16 that included people 65 and older in their earliest priority groups, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, a San Francisco-based health research group. Six states added young adults with high-risk medical conditions, for a total of 19.

In New Jersey, after Governor Phil Murphy opened up eligibility to teachers, he was asked at a March 1 virus briefing which groups had lobbied to be added. “Literally everybody,” he said.

“Every one of them is compelling, perhaps for different reasons,” Murphy said. “While we may not see a lot of in-school spread, we know there’s an enormous imperative to get our kids safely, responsibly, educators back in school, in person. Retail workers at the point of attack have a different, compelling case. Transit workers, I mentioned longshoremen and women. So I think everybody has put forward a responsible and compelling case.”

Expanding List

Cuomo, though, may hold the record for crowding the list. The governor has gone beyond age and underlying medical conditions, taking a piecemeal approach to vaccine eligibility and adding individual groups like restaurant workers, hotel employees and taxi drivers often one-by-one. Frequently, the additions come in response to lobbying appeals by local officials or industry groups.

For example, after Cuomo declared that New York City could reopen indoor dining in February, an appeal by Mayor Bill de Blasio and restaurant groups led to Cuomo allowing restaurant workers to become eligible. De Blasio, who often feuds with Cuomo, applauded the state’s decision to “follow the city’s call” to vaccinate New Yorkers over 60 and loosen restrictions.

By contrast, neighboring Connecticut has scrapped byzantine eligibility qualifications altogether, in favor of clear age bands. In February, Governor Ned Lamont threw out the state’s original plans of going by age and risk factors, which would have put front-line essential workers and people with underlying conditions first for vaccinations.

“Connecticut’s health-care providers have been doing an amazing job getting the vaccine to people as quickly as they can, and using age as the only qualifying factor is one of the reasons why they’ve had success so far,” Lamont said in a Feb. 22 statement. “The last thing we want to do is complicate the process for them and cause delays that slow things down and exacerbate issues regarding equitable access.”

On Monday, Florida said it would lower age eligibility to 60 and older, while Ohio and West Virginia recently said people 50 and older would be eligible for the vaccine.

Cuomo’s move to open eligibility has drawn praise for the governor as he faces calls for his resignation, following multiple allegations of sexual harassment and covering up Covid-related nursing-home deaths.

At Cuomo’s press conference Tuesday announcing the vaccine eligibility change, DeCarto Draper Jr., senior pastor at Tucker Missionary Baptist Church in Syracuse, praised Cuomo.

“Now we can open this up to more New Yorkers, which can allow us to end this suffering from over the last year,” said Draper, a Covid survivor himself, who described not being able to attend church on Easter Sunday for the first time in his life.

“It’s important that we get back to our way of life and the only way to get back to this way of life is that we must encourage the vaccine,” he said.

Following the reverend’s remarks, Cuomo said that he was going to call the White House to ask for more vaccine deliveries to New York. “Let’s get back to work,” he said.

New York has administered more than 5.4 million doses, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. About 18.4% of the state’s population has received at least one dose, mirroring the national average but trailing states like Connecticut and New Mexico, where around a quarter of the population has received at least one dose, according to the tracker.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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