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NY to get 50k fewer vaccines for second week in a row

Gov. Andrew Cuomo provides a coronavirus update in January from the Red Room at the State Capitol. (Provided photo — Mike Groll, governor's office)

ALBANY — The state is set to receive a smaller allocation of the COVID-19 vaccine than expected for the second week in a row, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday, as laws prevent the state from directly purchasing additional doses from a drug maker to bolster its dwindling vaccine supply.

The state’s 1,200-plus vaccine distribution centers continue to accelerate administering the two required injections at least three weeks apart to about 7 million eligible New Yorkers.

New York will receive 250,400 more doses of the vaccine in the coming days for next week’s distribution — nearly 50,000 fewer vaccine doses than the anticipated 300,000 weekly doses from the federal government for the second week in a row.

It would take about seven months at that rate to vaccinate the 7.1 million currently eligible New Yorkers, including health care workers, nursing home residents and staff, certain essential workers including police, EMS workers, firefighters and teachers and all Americans aged 65 and older.

“Only Jesus with loaves and fishes could handle the situation that the federal government created because they created such a demand and they never increased the supply,” Cuomo said Wednesday afternoon during a COVID-19 briefing in the state Capitol.

Cuomo and his top aides have urged federal officials to increase the national vaccine supply by purchasing more of Pfizer and Moderna’s approved vaccines, and approving the vaccine from additional drug makers, including Johnson & Johnson and Oxford-AstraZeneca.

The state cannot purchase its own vaccines under federal law. Cuomo contacted Pfizer earlier this week requesting New York to directly purchase more COVID-19 vaccine doses from the Manhattan drug maker.

“I tried,” Cuomo said. “Apparently, they only have what’s called an Emergency Authorization Use — they’re not licensed to sell. It’s a very limited federal approval, so states can’t buy (and) private individuals can’t buy.

“It’s going to be up to the federal government,” he added.

The state had 145,780 remaining COVID-19 vaccine doses Wednesday, and averages vaccinating 65,000 people each day. About 86% of doses delivered to the state from the federal government have been administered, Cuomo said.

“At this rate, we only have two or three days of supply,” the governor said. “We’ll start to get the next week’s allocation, but what’s clear now is we’re going to be going from week to week and you will see a constant pattern of basically running out, waiting for the next week’s allocation and then starting up again.”

The state reported 329,849 doses of the coronavirus vaccine were administered in week five of distribution, or last week, excluding long-term care facilities. The first New Yorker was vaccinated Dec. 14, with 34,630 doses administered in the first week.

The state has administered 1,156,079 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to date.

About 65% of the state’s 2.1 million hospital and long-term care facility workers have received an initial injection to date.

The percentage of vaccinated hospital workers also varies by region, with 76% health staff vaccinated in the north country, 71% in the Finger Lakes, 70% in the Capital Region and 62% in Western New York.

Between 70% and 90% of a population must be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity.

“I would have liked to see the health care workers leading the charge,” Cuomo said, adding people will likely have more confidence in vaccine safety if doctors and nurses receive it.

“That’s varied across the state,” he added. “Some areas are doing better than others, so that’s a priority we’re going to continue to follow.”

Nurses and doctors getting sick with the novel coronavirus, or one of the blossoming mutations of the disease, will impact hospital capacity.

Vaccine administration varies by region across New York, with 99% of the Southern Tier’s vaccine supply administered to eligible New Yorkers and a close second in the north country at 96%.

The Finger Lakes region has administered 88% of its allocated dosages to health care staff, essential workers and people aged 65 and older. Capital Region health centers have distributed 78% of vaccine doses — the second-lowest rate in the state.

About 90% of allocated vaccines have been distributed on Long Island and 82% in New York City.

The state’s overall COVID-19 positivity rose to 6.84% on Wednesday, up from 6.54% on Monday, but has continued to decline from an average positivity of more than 7% last week.

The state reported 185 New Yorkers died from COVID-19 complications Tuesday, slightly up from 152 Sunday.

New coronavirus hospitalizations continue to reflect a flattening increase, with 9,273 people in state hospitals Wednesday, up 37 patients. Hospitalizations see a lag in decreasing after the state infection rate has started to decline following the aftermath of the holiday season.

The Finger Lakes region has had the highest percentage of its population hospitalized with the novel coronavirus for several weeks with a flat 741 patients Wednesday, or 0.06% of the region’s population.

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