As vaccine supply runs dry, New York taking a ‘week-to-week’ approach for distribution

New York’s current supply of COVID-19 vaccinations is expected to run out Friday afternoon as the state then awaits the next round of weekly distribution from the federal government, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday.

During a media briefing from Albany, Mr. Cuomo said just over 28,000 doses remained on hand from prior deliveries and with a rate of 80,000 doses administered per day, the supply would soon be exhausted, if it had not been already by the time he spoke.

The next distribution for Week 6 since the vaccine was first approved will bring another 250,400 doses.

“We’re now going to week-to-week on the next week’s allocation,” the governor said. “We will, by the end of today, fully utilized all the doses that have been delivered.”

About 7.1 million New Yorkers are currently eligible for the vaccine, which means it would still take months to get that group of the population vaccinated at the current rate that doses are arriving for distribution. The governor said President Joe Biden’s plan to distribute 100 million doses over 100 days would equate to about 420,000 doses per week for New York, based on the state’s population. Even at that rate, it could still take 17 weeks to vaccinate the 7.1 million people.

“This is going to be a long, several months in the distribution of this vaccine and the anxiety that has been created,” he said. “I’m hopeful that the Biden administration can figure out how to increase production and shorten that 17 [weeks].”

Through the first five weeks of the vaccine being available, 97% of allocated first dosages have been administered. That figure is the same for the Long Island region, which is fourth best in the state, according to the governor. A total of 1.16 million first doses have been administered and just under 170,000 second doses.

The governor urged providers of the vaccine to only schedule appointments for allocations they know they will receive.

“The last thing we want to do is cancel appointments,” he said. “Don’t schedule an appointment unless you know you have an allocation.”

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The governor outlined further details on how the distribution works in New York. There are about 1,200 distributors in the network that is capable of administering more than 100,000 doses per day if the quantity is there. He said the distribution network is being built up in advance of an increase in vaccine doses. The number of distributors could increase to 2,000-3,000, he said.

When the state receives the supply from the federal government, the distribution within the state is based on population. Long Island currently receives 13% of the state’s total. Only New York City, at 43%, receives a higher percentage. New York City, Long Island and he mid-Hudson region account for 66% of the statewide distribution.

“The region distributes it by subgroup by the different providers,” Mr. Cuomo said.

There are essential three groups of eligible residents: Health care workers, essential workers such as police and teachers and anyone 65 or older. The distribution within those groups is also based on population. So health care workers, a group of about 1.3 million people, receive 21% of the doses. Essential workers, a group of about 1.7 million people, receive 27% of the doses. And 52% of the doses are allocated for the 3.2 million people who are 65 or older.

“No one is happy, everybody wants more,” he said. “What do you do? Just be as fair as you can possibly be with the allocation you have.”

The governor said essential workers are vaccinated through city or county departments of health. Health care workers are vaccinated through their hospital systems. The older population are vaccinated through pharmacies as state-run sites such as the one that opened Monday at Stony Brook University.

Currently 61% of Long Island hospital workers have been vaccinated, the governor said. He also said the first round of vaccinations at nursing homes has been completed. He said there have been 70% of nursing home residents vaccinated so far.

The latest data on COVID-19 across the state shows some encouraging signs as the statewide positivity rate continues to trend down and currently stands at 5.65%. Hospitalizations, which are a lagging indicator of the positivity rate, took a big dip in the past two days, decreasing by 427. It currently stands at 8,846. Suffolk County reported 850 people hospitalized on Wednesday, a decrease of 13 from the prior 24 hours. The governor pointed out that the Long Island region, along with Finger Lakes, is still in a dangerous area with hospitalizations. The number of hospitalizations in Suffolk County has tripled from the end of November.

There were 165 fatalities reported across the state on Thursday.