Thousands of COVID vaccines unused in NYC thanks to state rules: officials

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New York City’s public hospital system has “thousands of slots available” for New Yorkers to get the COVID-19 vaccine – but the doses going unused because of state restrictions, officials charged Thursday.

Dr. Mitchell Katz, the president and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals, said during Mayor Bill de Blasio’s City Hall press briefing that all healthcare workers at the city’s network of 11 public hospitals who want to get vaccinated have had “that opportunity.”

“But I still have thousands of slots available. I want to put that vaccine in the arms of people who need it,” said Katz, who has previously noted that around 30 percent of eligible healthcare employees are refusing to get the jab.

Katz made the remarks as he and de Blasio again pushed the state to allow local officials to begin vaccinating its elderly patients, as well as cops and other city employees, who they say desperately want the inoculations.

“For weeks, we appealed to the state to give us more flexibility and freedom,” said de Blasio. “Because that hasn’t happened, it’s important to raise the issue publicly.”

Until Monday, those eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine included frontline hospital workers, EMS workers, and nursing home residents and staff. The pool has now expanded to include home care workers and aides, hospice workers, dentists and doctors in private practices.

“In the real world, you know that you need freedom and flexibility if you’re really going to vaccinate a lot of people,” said de Blasio, adding, “I’ve got a huge number of folks over 75 who would show up right now if we would allow them to do it – state won’t allow it.”

Katz added when vaccination efforts started in the city three weeks ago “there was tremendous interest,” but that demand has now wound down.

“So, all of a sudden, we now have appointments available and we don’t have arms to give that injection to,” he said.

The city cannot move on to vaccinating those in the next group, category 1B — which includes over 75s — until the state gives authorization to do so.

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Dr. Mitchell Katz, CEO of NYC Health and Hospitals.

William Farrington

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Bill de Blasio

Mayor’s Office

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More than 149,930 New Yorkers have been vaccinated in the Big Apple so far, according to the latest city data — out of 487,375 available doses.

Cuomo has repeatedly ripped the city and H+H for not doling out more of its doses — noting at press conferences that they public network’s hospitals have only put around a third of their stockpile into arms.

The Big Apple “has 917,000 eligible healthcare workers in [category] 1A and has only administered 144,000 vaccines,” Peter Ajemian, a spokesman for Cuomo, said in a statement Thursday.

“We urge New York City and other local governments to get needles in the arms of the healthcare workers to avoid our frontline heroes from getting sick and our hospitals from collapsing due to increasing staff shortages.”

If the hospitals have given doses to all eligible workers who want them , they need to tell the state Department of Health “and we will reallocate their doses,” Ajemian said.

“We’re all anxious to get the vaccination to 1B, 75-year-old New Yorkers, and essential workers. However, we must establish competent administration because if a government fails to administer 1A vaccines, what makes anyone think they can competently administer 1B?” said Ajemian.

New York government officials outside of the Big Apple have also faulted Cuomo’s administration of the vaccine rollout.

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