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Cuomo calls for large unions to help administer COVID-19 vaccines

Posted at 12:07 AM, Jan 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-27 00:07:42-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Governor Andrew Cuomo is asking large essential workforces and their unions to set up their own vaccination programs.

The initial announcement came three weeks ago, and has been discussed by the governor at several briefings since then.

Cuomo wants them to administer the vaccines themselves, or use their own health system provider where possible. This includes fire, police, transit, and teacher essential workforces.

Jeffrey Richardson is the president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 13442, the NFTA's largest union. He said the NFTA has nurses and doctors that could administer shots.

“We have a plan that’s ready to roll out, it could be done at the airport, that’s NFTA property, so we’re ready to get started we’re just waiting on the vaccination.”

Of the 1,000 transit workers he represents he said approximately 60-70% answered a survey saying they would take the vaccine.

"The company we have our own medical department, so they're ready with nurses and they have some doctors on staff that are ready to do the shots," Richardson said. "So, as soon as they come out we're ready to roll."

Cuomo said these plans ease the burden on other vaccination sites.

There are no plans for a self-administered program from the Buffalo fire or police unions. Buffalo Police Benevolent Association President John Evans said it's not feasible for the union to vaccinate members.

“It was ridiculous in that who would we contact, or try to facilitate even getting the vaccine," Evans said. "We have no means to do that or to administer it."

Buffalo Fire Commissioner William Renaldo said he believes the issue comes down to supply and demand. He said the department's medical director sent out a link to register for vaccine appointments at the start of eligibility, and is helping those having issues registering.

Cuomo said the supply would be from county health departments. Currently, appointments are being canceled currently due to lack of supply.

The governor said that could change with President Joe Biden's order of an additional 200 million vaccines.

“Now, the states will know what they’re getting every week, for the next three weeks, and we’re getting about 16-17% more,” Cuomo said.

In a statement, the president of New York State United Teachers said its focused on connecting local unions that want to be involved in vaccination efforts with local health departments.

“Getting education professionals prioritized for the vaccine was the first step. Now we need the federal supply to catch up with demand so the educators who want their vaccine are able to get one in a timely fashion. We stand ready to help our members through this process, and our efforts are focused on communicating with the state on how to connect local unions that want to play a role with their local departments of health to ramp up efforts to get shots in arms.”
NYSUT President Andy Pallotta

The Buffalo Public School district says it can help distribute vaccines.

“In large urban school districts, schools are the epicenters of their communities. Make the vaccines available to us. We can help. We’re prepared to help. We have the facilities, the school nurses, the cleaning staff, the transportation systems, the communications systems, the security teams, and the necessary refrigeration to get the job done. Provide us 50,000 vaccines to start, and we’ll get the first dose done in two weeks, and then we can continue from there.”
Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash