Many New Yorkers got an unexpected alert on their cellphones as state officials seek to assist families struggling amid the nationwide baby formula shortage.
On Friday, May 13, anyone who downloaded the NY State Excelsior Pass during the COVID-19 pandemic to prove their vaccination status received an alert advising that the state is prepared to provide resources to families.
According to New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, since the recall of certain powdered infant formula products in February, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been working to bring an influx of new products to the market to increase the availability of formula.
Hochul said that throughout the pandemic “the Department of Health has continued to support the distribution of diapers, formula, and other infant supplies through its home visiting program and partnership networks.”
In response to the formula shortage, she said the Department of Health has increased communication with formula manufacturers to monitor the production of can sizes, supply, and shipments, and the New York State WIC Program has worked to coordinate with manufacturers to provide resources for those who cannot find it locally.
The governor said that through “Wanda,” the DOH’s chatbot, New Yorkers can receive direct, accessible online navigation support through a "personal WIC assistant" and see if their infant is eligible for WIC benefits.
“In close coordination with our federal partners, New York State will continue to do everything possible to support New York families in need of formula for their infants," Hochul said. "My administration is committed to ensuring every newborn and child has access to the nutritional support they need to stay healthy.
“I urge every parent and guardian to take advantage of these resources and keep up to date with important information to take care of their families."
New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said that in an effort to meet the current demand for infant formula, many stores have been limiting the amount customers can purchase at one time.
She noted that it is important that families do not hoard shipments of formula, which would further exacerbate the supply chain and cause additional difficulties for other parents.
“Reports of infant formula supply shortages are concerning, and we urge New York families to follow the Department's recommendations as we continue to monitor the situation in New York,” Bassett stated. “New York families should work with their infant's medical provider if a new formula suggestion is needed to meet their infant's needs, and all New Yorkers should visit their local New York State Women, Infants and Children Office or prescreen with Wanda, the Department's chatbot, to see if their infant is eligible for WIC benefits.
“The Department remains committed to ensuring families have the nutritional support and resources needed to best care for our youngest New Yorkers."
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.