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Immunocompromised people can register for COVID-19 vaccine in NJ, still can't in NY

Posted at 12:01 AM, Jan 19, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — As a Stage 4 breast cancer patient, Laurie Drzyzga of Buffalo was excited to hear vaccine eligibility would expand to include people who are immunocompromised.

Nearly one week after Governor Andrew Cuomo's announcement that the state would follow new federal guidance, immunocompromised New Yorkers still don't have the option to register for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment.

“I’ve been waiting for this vaccine," Drzyzga said. "I don’t go out of my house. I had chemo and radiation so I have no immune system whatsoever.”

Last week, the state said it's working with the CDC on a clearer definition of who falls under immunocompromised, and until then New Yorkers would not be able to register under that eligibility.

That is not the case, however, in neighboring New Jersey.

Governor Phil Murphy opened up eligibility to immunocompromised individuals last week. Murphy said the eligible medical conditions under Phase 1B are those defined by the CDC as making one more at risk of severe illness if contracting COVID-19. The conditions include cancer, chronic kidney disease, heart conditions, Down Syndrome, and smoking among others.

7 Eyewitness News asked state officials why New York hasn't defined the conditions that make one eligible to receive the vaccine when other states have. 7 Eyewitness News also asked what additional information the state is looking for before opening up registration to immuncompromised individuals. We have not received an answer.

In his Friday press conference, Cuomo said the state is talking with federal officials to get more guidance.

“So we're talking to the federal officials, we're talking to the incoming federal administration, and we want to get more guidance, and we’re looking at numbers on how we could define that category," Cuomo said. "And we’re hoping that we get more federal allocation so we make any of this possible.”

Karen Young of Olean has Crohn's Disease, an auto immune disorder. She said until she can get a vaccine she won't go to large stores, will grocery shop at off hours, and doesn't see her daughter who's a nurse.

Young said she understands the process is slow, but just wants her process to begin by being allowed to register.

“At one point I said I’m gonna have to fly to Florida to get a vaccine, or now I laugh and say I’m gonna have to drive to New Jersey to get a vaccine, and you know that shouldn’t be,” Young said.

Cuomo said about 5 million more New Yorkers will be eligible for the vaccine once those who are immunocompromised can register. He said that would raise the number of eligible New Yorkers to 12 million, 3 million shy of the statewide population that could receive the vaccine. New York is facing a vaccine supply shortage, along with many other states in the U.S.