New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s vaccine distribution policy forced numerous doses of the shot to be thrown away, after some patients failed to show up for their appointments. Under Cuomo’s orders, hospitals that distribute vaccines to people ineligible to receive the vaccine are subject to stiff penalties, including millions of dollars in fines.
Speaking to the New York Times, Dr. Neil Calman said that the Family Health Center of Harlem had to dispose of doses of the coronavirus vaccine after patients failed to make their appointments. Other institutions relayed similar stories. Doctors and other medical professionals spoke of vaccines sitting in freezers for weeks, unused.
The state was forced to expand the pool of those eligible to receive the vaccine after a lack of candidates forced healthcare workers to dispose of the spare doses.
Under Cuomo’s guidelines, the New York City health department told clinics they could only give shots to people deemed eligible by the state, and in a specific order. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio opposed the restrictions and demanded that the state allow the city to make its own determinations to maximize efficiency and not waste any doses.
The governor had threatened to fine hospitals up to $100,000 if they did not speed up the rollout of the vaccine, but also threatened to fine them if they vaccinated people out of order. Additionally, Cuomo threatened to fine hospitals $1 million if they did not use up their allotment of vaccines within a given period, which in turn, forced hospitals to throw away unused vaccines.
“I don’t want the vaccine in a fridge or a freezer, I want it in somebody’s arm,” said Cuomo. “If you’re not performing this function, it does raise questions about the operating efficiency of the hospital.”
Following the logistical disaster, Cuomo announced on Tuesday that New York will be accepting new federal guidelines that include extending vaccine eligibility to everyone 65 and older, as well as younger individuals who are immunocompromised. In New York this amounts to about seven million more people, according to CNBC.
The New York Times reports that despite vaccinations beginning in mid-December, relatively few doses have been given out in contrast to other states including Connecticut, which has a much lower population.