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COVID-19: Cuomo Lays Out New Vaccine Distribution Network After Slow Rollout

New York is expanding its COVID-19 vaccination distribution network. Photo Credit:
New York is expanding its COVID-19 vaccination distribution network. Photo Credit:
The larger distribution network will ask for large union groups to organize their own administration of the vaccine. Photo Credit:
Those who are eligible in New York to be vaccinated in Phase 1A. Photo Credit:
Those who are eligible in New York to be vaccinated in Phase 1B. Photo Credit:

After seeing a slow initial rollout of COVID-19 vaccine allocations in New York hospitals, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Department of Health are establishing a new, larger distribution network to administer more doses more quickly.

Cuomo said that as the state’s vaccination plan moves forward and more doses are being administered to a larger cross-section of the population, there will be a larger distribution network that includes thousands of providers that will ease the burden off hospitals.

The larger distribution network will include private doctors, FQHCs, County Health Departments, Ambulatory Centers, and pharmacies.

“The (original) thought with (starting distribution in) hospitals was that that’s where the healthcare workers are, and they’d be comfortable doing it,” Cuomo said. “But we’re not pleased with the rate of distribution, so we’re going to supplement the hospitals with this additional network.”

The new distribution network will provide doses to those eligible as part of Phase 1A and 1B (see above). Those interesting in registering to receive their vaccine will be able to do so beginning on Monday, Jan. 11, though it could be weeks, if not months, until some are able to get their shots.

There will also be a webinar on Jan. 11 for new providers who are looking to participate in the new network, including thousands of pharmacies, hundreds of doctor networks that qualify, large unions, and all county health departments.

“The federal government distributes the vaccine doses based by population, so New York gets its doses based on its relative population,” Cuomo said. “That’s how we’re going to distribute the vaccines at the state level, purely on the numbers by the percentage and that’s how it will be distributed locally.”

Cuomo also called for some hospitals to stay open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, saying that the number (of vaccines distributed) is low, and the state needs to get the numbers up.

“I said on Monday that these hospitals have to actually step up and they went from doing about 10,000 vaccinations per day to about 60,000 vaccinations daily, but like I said, it’s all about competence,” he added. “Soon, we’re going to have much more capacity than we will product, it’s going to be the opposite of what we’re seeing now.”

Despite saying that hospitals were facing a “use it or lose it” situation when it came to distributing vaccines last week, Cuomo backed down and said that he wouldn’t be re-allocating doses already transported to hospitals, but they may receive fewer allocations in the future if they don’t improve.

“Right now, we’re going to leave the allocations in those hospitals while still prioritizing healthcare workers,” he said. “If you’re a hospital that distributes 100 percent of the vaccine, I’d rather give it to you because there’s a very scarce amount, so we’re going to give you the vaccine rather than a hospital that we know is going to take two weeks to get out the same amount of doses.”

In addition to the thousands of distributors being added, Cuomo said that the Department of Health is also setting up mass distribution sites across the state that will be able to provide thousands of vaccines.

“Our distribution network is going to far outpace our supply. Our supply is going to be the problem, and that’s the reality,” he noted. “It could be up to 14 weeks (before vaccines are readily available) unless the federal supply from the federal government increases.

“The first person to say that we need more (doses) is going to be me,” Cuomo added. “So this is all about calibrating our expectations as we lean into our many distributor options.”  

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