Local health director calling to expand vaccine eligibility in New York

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FILE – In this Jan. 18, 2021, file photo, a vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19 is prepared at a vaccination center of the 3rd district, in Paris. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, File)

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STEUBEN COUNTY, N.Y. (WETM) — The country is 37 days away from President Joe Biden’s order to have all American adults eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine by May 1. In New York, officials are having problems filling their vaccine slots due to eligibility restrictions.

Currently, only New York residents who are 50 years and older, 18 years old and older with comorbidities, and some essential workers are eligible to receive the vaccine.

“I do think that eligibility needs to be opened, it needs to be broadened,” said Darlene Smith, Public Health Director in Steuben County. “Yesterday, we held a first dose clinic and it was a 300 dose clinic. We ended up 20 or 30 short, so we didn’t fill that clinic. “

Smith said the county is continuing to have multiple vaccine clinics but not enough residents are signing up.

“We’re also having both a second dose and a first dose clinic tomorrow in Canisteo, and so far I’m a long way from being full,” Smith said.

She said the ten year incremental rollout plan is making it harder to use the vaccine allotments.

“Rather than, you know, these incremental ten-year drops in age for eligibility, I’d rather see more essential workers,” Smith said. “I don’t need an increase in my allocation if there’s not going to be a broadening of the eligibility groups.”

Meanwhile, when asked about expanding vaccine eligibility, Governor Andrew Cuomo said he will not set a date for all adults being eligible because he doesn’t want a deficit in vaccines.

“I just want to make sure that the allocation projections that we are getting from the feds are right,” Cuomo said. “I don’t want to say we’re going to open up to 30-year-olds in three weeks and then something happens with the allocation like it happened this week, and then I say ‘whoops, sorry.’”

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