ALBANY, N.Y. — New information for people with pre-existing health conditions who are hoping to get vaccinated was provided by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday.
People with qualifying health conditions will have to provide a doctor's letter, or medical information evidencing comorbidity, or a signed certification. It will be up to local governments to decide what proof residents need to provide.
Starting February 15, people with qualifying health conditions can begin receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. As early as February 14, people with health conditions can begin scheduling vaccinations through the state-run site.
For all non state-run mass vaccination sites, such as pharmacies and doctors offices, it will be up to local governments on how that scheduling and appointment process will work in their jurisdictions.
"New Yorkers are fair minded and everybody wants this vaccine. But the rules should be followed. We don't want people abusing the system," the governor said.
Eligible conditions include:
- Cancer (current or in remission, including 9/11-related cancers)
- Chronic kidney disease
- Pulmonary Disease, including but not limited to, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma (moderate-to-severe), pulmonary fibrosis, cystic fibrosis, and 9/11 related pulmonary diseases
- Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities including Down Syndrome
- Heart conditions, including but not limited to heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies, or hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) including but not limited to solid organ transplant or from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, use of other immune weakening medicines, or other causes
- Severe Obesity (BMI 40 kg/m2), Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 kg/m2 or higher but < 40 kg/m2)
- Sickle cell disease or Thalassemia
- Type 1 or 2 diabetes mellitus
- Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain)
- Neurologic conditions including but not limited to Alzheimer's Disease or dementia
- Liver disease
Despite vaccine eligibility expanding, local government leaders tell 2 On Your Side low supply of vaccines is still an issue.
Genesee County Manager Matthew Landers said, "At our GCC site, we can put up to 700 to 1,000 people through a day, if doses weren't an issue."
Landers said the county doesn't even have enough supply for those who were made eligible weeks ago.
"I can understand the governor wanting to put as many people through, I 100 percent understand that position but it is frustrating because we still haven't been able to get through all of our original 1-A, 1-B people that were designated weeks ago" he said.
Cattaraugus County Public Health Director Dr. Kevin Watkins said the county is administering on average 200 doses a week and worries about eligibility increasing.
"If there is not more vaccine being issued to the county it is going to be very difficult to meet the increased demand that will potentially occur starting February 15," Watkins said.
Governor Andrew Cuomo also provided an update on the vaccination of healthcare workers.
On January 18, the rate of hospital workers vaccinated was at 63 percent. Now, that rate is 75 percent, as of February 7. However, one local hospital is in the bottom 25 hospitals in terms of vaccinating its workers.
Wyoming County Community Hospital in Warsaw has 49.4 percent of its workers vaccinated.
This week marks the last week that hospital employees can get vaccinated before the doses allocated to hospitals are reallocated for people with health conditions.
"Something is just not right somewhere," Cuomo said regarding the hospitals that still have low rates of staff vaccinated.
The governor added that the DOH will review those low-rate hospitals.
Cuomo also says they have 5,000 distribution centers ready for when the state begins receiving more vaccine supply.