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New York State expands vaccine eligibility

As part of Gov. Cuomo's "Roll Up Your Sleeve" campaign, New Yorkers 50 years old and older will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine starting Tuesday.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Starting Tuesday, New Yorkers ages 50 years old and older will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The expansion in vaccine eligibility comes as part of Governor Cuomo's new "Roll Up Your Sleeve" campaign, which was announced on Monday.

The state's effort to vaccinate more people is all in hopes of boosting herd immunity. Something family medicine Dr. Raul Vazquez says is a good thing, but not however, at the expense of skipping over those who should be at the front of the line.

"If we don't work on the priorities, it makes the whole process very difficult," Dr. Vazquez says. 

And part of making sure those who need to get vaccinated first, he says, is making sure that vaccines are in the hands of those who touch the most lives - the doctors themselves, which has yet to happen. 

"All I need is to get it so I can make sure that patients get vaccinated. The logistics of it, I have no control of it," he says.

Vazquez says, for months he has been submitting a request for vaccine orders and was informed last week that he should be getting around 200 vaccines sometime this week, which he says he's grateful for, but for the community to start seeing some big strides, doctor's offices need to get as much vaccine as possible.

"Practice's like Buffalo Medical Group are going to get 200 doses, practice's like mine are going to get 200 doses. We're not at the 1,500 or 1,600 amount," Dr. Vazquez said.

Which could present a problem, especially if the eligibility pool continues to grow and the supply continues to outweigh the demand. 

"I'm hoping," Dr. Vazquez says, "once they open the flood gates, I mean getting 1,500 to 2,000 doses a week, then we can really start to keep up."

But for now, practice's like Urban Family Practice will have to make do.

During a town hall meeting on Monday, Dr. Nancy Nielsen, Senior Associate Dean for Health Policy at University at Buffalo and a leader in the vaccine distribution planning process, told 2 On Your Side that the decision to distribute vaccines directly to physicians is important.

"This is the very first week that any allocation is going to come to physicians offices and we're thrilled - we're thrilled," Dr. Nielsen said.

However, there are still not enough vaccines.

"I'd rather have people know they are eligible than not be eligible," Dr. Nielsen said. "But, it doesn't create anymore vaccine when you announce you've expanded the eligibility pool."

Which continues to make for a difficult and delicate process. 

"We are working hard to try to find a mechanism to try to find slots available, more to come on that," Dr. Nielsen says.