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Vaccine eligibility can expand, but counties say they need more doses first

Posted at 11:32 PM, Feb 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-02 23:32:50-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Governor Andrew Cuomo said local governments can decide whether to expand 1b COVID-19 vaccine eligibility.

Counties are allowed to expand eligibility to:

  • People in developmentally disabled facilities
  • Uber/taxi drivers
  • Restaurant workers

The state said counties can expect 20% more doses of vaccine over the next three weeks, due to the federal government increasing its supply to the states.

“So now there’s additional flexibility, and I’m leaving it up to the local governments to determine what fits their situation best," Cuomo said.

The county said this months allocations will go to re-scheduling the 9,000 appointments that were canceled due to low supply. Erie County said it can not expand eligibility to the new groups at this time.

“It’s difficult for me to sit here and tell those people that you’re gonna be able to get a vaccine next week because that’s just not gonna happen, it's not gonna happen at least in Erie County,” Poloncarz said.

Counties across Western New York are in similar situations.

"Until we actually see an increase in the amount of vaccine available, we are going to hold off on opening things up to more groups. We are still a long way off from completing the vaccine for those already deemed eligible. Adding more people into that mix without a demonstrable increase in our vaccine supply will just add to the confusion and frustration."
Daniel J. Stapleton, Niagara County Public Health Director

Health department officials for Wyoming, Genesee, and Orleans county tell 7 Eyewitness News current vaccine allotments would make vaccinating the new groups a challenge.

Genesee County Public Health Administrator Laura Paolucci said the county received an allocation of 100 doses this week and still has a large number of people who are already eligible. The 20% increase would give the county 20 additional doses.

Paolucci said the county received an additional 100 doses strictly designated for residents and employees of congregate facilities. Niagara County and Erie County also received allotments designated for people in developmentally disabled facilities.

The new expansion does not include people who are immunocompromised. Three weeks ago, Cuomo said the state would accept federal guidance extending eligibility to people who are immunocompromised.

Cuomo said the state is working with new CDC officials to define immunocompromised conditions. He added supply is an issue.

“To now say to 4 million people ok you’re eligible too, but you know we’re nowhere near being able to get to you, it’s meaningless," Cuomo said.

Other states, including neighboring New Jersey, opened up eligibility to immunocompromised individuals a few weeks ago, and defined eligible conditions using CDC guidance.

More vaccines are coming to pharmacies, who are tasked with vaccinating people 65 and over. The federal government will directly supply them an additional 10% of a state's allocation, meaning New York pharmacies will receive about 30,000 more doses.

CVS pharmacies announced it will begin vaccines in New York, including at its Hamburg and Batavia locations.