Wider Eligibilities in New York Result in Higher Vaccination Rollouts

New York State’s Governor Andrew Cuomo has recently been heavily criticized for his strict Coronavirus vaccination eligibility requirements. As of now, various New Yorkers such as those over 65 years and older or essential workers, first responders, and patients with underlying diseases are allowed to receive a vaccination since they are at higher risk from COVID-19.

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Shahabir Sami

Laila Johnson, a nurse responsible for vaccinating hundreds of patients per day, agrees with New York State Governor Cuomo’s recent eligibility changes. “The more people get it and the faster they do, the better,” Johnson said.

How can we distribute vaccines quickly and effectively is the question on everyone’s minds, but discarding any portion of them should never be the case.

The Governor of New York State, Andrew Cuomo, has come under criticism for New York’s early slow vaccination pace. Cuomo’s previously strict policies concerning vaccine eligibility included only front-line workers, such as nursing home staff and doctors, being on the list. 

Although this seems good on paper from the perspective that the principal caretakers of Coronavirus-contracted patients do not contract the virus themselves, it is also problematic due to the fact that the front-line workers are not the only ones with increased danger.

As we know, the elderly have a significantly lower chance of surviving COVID-19 as well as an increased chance of contracting it. According to statistics, 80% of those who have died from the Coronavirus have been adults sixty-five years of age or older.

This is not the only problem posed as the prioritization of front-line workers does not encompass the total number of available vaccines. There have been reports of unused vaccines being simply discarded into trash bins.

The scrupulously marginalized eligibility guidelines required to receive the Coronavirus vaccination have hindered New York State rather than benefit the portion of those that were targeted to be vaccinated. According to reports, only 34% of vaccines shipped to New York were utilized. Despite the circumstances, we should seek to ensure that the majority of available vaccines go out and do not end up in our landfills.

However, as of February 15th, 2021, phase 1-C in New York has officially commenced, giving additional guidelines through which specified individuals are eligible to receive the vaccine. The people at higher risk are not only the elderly and front-line workers, but also are inclusive of essential workers who range from restaurant workers to licensed drivers, first responders like firefighters or paramedics, and people with underlying diseases and immunocompromised immune systems.

Undoubtedly, giving priority to front-line workers is a good first step, but those at higher risk should not be neglected. Essential workers are defined as those that are necessary to continue their work in order to allow society to continue to function. Allowing them to receive COVID-19 vaccinations will ensure not only their own safety, but also the safety of their co-workers, families, and clients. Governor Cuomo plans on widening the eligibility guidelines even further by April 2021 at the earliest, or early summer 2021 at the latest. 

 “My parents are teachers, as are many of their friends. Many of them have already gotten their first shot. I think that it was a smart choice, because so many vaccines weren’t being given out, and it doesn’t do any good just sitting in the freezers,” said Lily Zufall ’24. It does more good than harm to use the vaccines instead of letting them go to waste, unused. 

However, another problem arises from this plan and that is its implementation. How can the state be sure that one person did not skip their turn and receive a vaccination without falling within the eligibility guidelines? Governor Cuomo was quick to address this important issue.

If anyone falsifies their identity in order to be vaccinated, then that person has committed a state crime that is punishable. Cuomo’s fast and authoritative response to this issue displays his commitment on the matter, which many people have claimed was missing early on in January 2021 with the slow vaccination rollouts.

It is also noteworthy to mention that Cuomo was not the main recipient of criticism as former-President Donald Trump was the subject of criticism following his plan to allow states to formulate their own protocols for COVID-19 vaccination rollout. 

Health experts claim that Trump’s lack of leadership during the first rollout of the vaccine is the primary cause of America’s initial slow vaccination rollout. By not creating a unified system through which the states would go about the vaccination process, some states have seen more success than others with their vaccination rates. “Trump should have set guidelines for the individual states to follow. If he had done so, we may have had a more successful vaccine rollout earlier than we have had currently,” said Zora Kuehne ’24.

After Joe Biden was sworn in as President of the United States on January 20th, 2021, he quickly took action with fixing vaccine rollout problems. In February 2021, President Biden drastically ramped up the distribution of vaccines following his plan. “I like it. I think it’s the right thing to do, as we need to keep frontline and essential workers safe, and with all the extra work they have had to do as a result of COVID-19,” said Nurul Azam ’24. Biden’s leadership led to this increase in vaccine distribution which is going to save the lives of tens of thousands of people.

Cuomo had been critical of former-President Trump’s approach to vaccine distribution, specifically calling out on its lack of leadership and efficiency. This is different from President Biden’s vaccine distribution goals, as he possesses more of a concrete plan. This is the reason that Cuomo has requested that Biden increase Coronavirus supplies and vaccines to New York State. “I believe that it is a very good idea for Cuomo to be asking for additional resources. I think this is something important. Getting the COVID-19 vaccines to as many people as possible and as fast as possible is very important, so this is a good policy on Cuomo’s part,” said Anashe Ufumaka ’24. 

Regardless of the specific circumstances of the situation, we must maintain the current COVID-19 safety precautions in order to assure that we may eventually gain back the aspects of our life that we miss, ones that we hope to have once again.

“So many vaccines weren’t being given out, and it doesn’t do any good just sitting in the freezers,” said Lily Zufall ’24.

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