New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has apparently decided against waiting for Joe Biden to take office as president before distributing a new Covid-19 vaccine, saying the first batch of inoculations will be available by December 15.
“The goal line is in sight,” Cuomo said on Wednesday in a press briefing. The mid-December timeline assumes that the vaccine will get all necessary federal approvals and be OK’d by a state panel of experts without delay, he said.
The vaccine was developed by drug makers Pfizer and BioNTech with assistance from the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed program. An FDA advisory committee may grant Pfizer’s request for emergency use authorization on December 10, and the Trump administration has said that the military stands ready to distribute the vaccine throughout the US within 24 hours. That means the first doses could be given to first-stage recipients, such as medical workers, on December 11 or December 12.
President Donald Trump said last month that deliveries to New York could be delayed because Cuomo was blocking the vaccine for political reasons. Cuomo had said that the arrival of the vaccine under Trump was “bad news” and that “we can’t let this vaccine plan go forward the way Trump is planning it.” He added that Biden, a fellow Democrat, would handle the rollout properly after he takes office on January 20.
!@NYGovCuomo says it’s “bad news” Pfizer’s Covid vaccine came during the Trump Admin; says he’s going to work w/ other governors to “stop” distribution “before it does damage” pic.twitter.com/ULembNWokW
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) November 9, 2020
Cuomo made no mention of waiting for Biden on Wednesday and said New York’s first batch of the vaccine will include enough doses for 170,000 people. The first shots will go to such groups as medical workers and nursing home residents. Additional deliveries of the vaccine and a Covid-19 vaccine developed by Moderna will come later in December and will arrive every seven to 10 days, he said.
The vaccine won’t be made mandatory because such a requirement would get tied up in legal challenges, Cuomo said.
The Trump administration and Cuomo still don’t see eye-to-eye on vaccine science. Cuomo said 75-85 percent of people will need to be vaccinated before economic activity can return to near normal levels. Dr. Moncef Slaoui, chief scientific adviser for Trump’s Operation Warp Speed, said in November that given the 95 percent efficacy ratings of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, about 70 percent of Americans will need to be immunized to achieve “true herd immunity,” which he sees being possible by around May 2021.
Cuomo has been criticized for imposing some of the nation’s most draconian Covid-19 lockdown orders, which failed to prevent the state from having the largest number of deaths from the virus. Danny Presti, a Staten Island bar owner who declared his tavern an autonomous zone in defiance of city and state Covid-19 restrictions, was arrested on Tuesday night over serving his customers indoors.
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