In a single day, Israel immunizes more people against COVID-19 than New York City has in total since receiving its first vaccine shipment on Dec. 14. The two have similar populations, but 1.6 million Israelis have gotten jabbed and just 168,000 Gothamites have.
The problem is less supply than stupidity: Gov. Cuomo’s complex rules on eligibility have left clinics tossing good vaccines rather than risk fines for administering it “out of order.” And the paperwork burden slows everything down, too.
It’s madness. To reach herd immunity — and get our lives and jobs back — we need to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible. Quit the micromanaging over exactly who gets it when and focus on getting it done.
President-elect Joe Biden showed he gets it with his announcement on Friday that he’ll release all available vaccines to the states as soon as he takes office. The feds have been withholding half to ensure that second doses get delivered on time, but Biden is right to force the issue, signaling to states that they must move more quickly. More doses are on the way, and that first jab provides significant protection.
But the state and city have to do their part. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Thursday that all Israeli citizens over the age of 16 will be able to get vaccinated by the end of March. At the current pace here, New Yorkers will be lucky to get jabbed by September.
As of early Friday, Gotham had received 489,326 doses but used just 167,949, about 34 percent. Cuomo refused for days to reveal state data, finally saying on Thursday that it had gotten about 900,000 vaccines and administered 430,000; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say New York has gotten 1.13 million doses.
It doesn’t have to be that way. As Betsy McCaughey noted this week in these pages, the city vaccinated 6 million people against smallpox in a single month in 1947 — without the benefit of all the technology we have now.
What to do?
Allow sensible flexibility.
The Moderna vaccine comes in vials of 10 doses that must be used within six hours once punctured. A nurse at the Family Health Center of Harlem actually threw out a partly used vial, The New York Times reports, because the city Health Department told the clinic it couldn’t vaccinate anyone not yet eligible — and she couldn’t find enough eligible people in time.
That’s a stark contrast to the Northern California hospital whose freezer broke, shortening vaccine shelf life. Officials administered all 830 vaccines in just two hours, official priorities be damned. Meanwhile, Team Cuomo is dropping the hammer on a New Rochelle hospital for vaccinating out of order — in an area at the center of one of the state’s worst outbreaks.
Cuomo’s executive order imposing fines up to $1 million for vaccinating out of order has health-care providers scared, and that slows things down. So does making providers calculate which health-care workers are eligible, by looking at things like days on site and which clients they service.
Just get them the vaccine, already.
The gov insists that “the supply is our issue,” but it’s clearly not. After days of pleas from Mayor de Blasio, Cuomo finally relented on Friday and said he’ll expand eligibility starting Monday.
But he doesn’t go far enough: He’s only opening up “Phase 1b” on top of “Phase 1a.” But 1c includes people at high risk of fatality if they catch the virus: those over 65 and those with certain underlying conditions. At least, open up all of group 1: Not everyone eligible willing to get jabbed at first, and hundreds of thousands of vaccines are going unused.
Israel is ensuring not a single dose goes to waste. Those over 60 get priority, but younger people can line up outside sites and receive a vaccine if any is left at day’s end; more than 100,000 people ages 20 to 40 have gotten jabbed.
That, of course, helps build herd immunity, which helps everyone.
Call up the National Guard.
This is precisely the kind of thing the Guard is there to do, and likely do well. Other places have already started relying on it to boost their vaccination programs. There are countless ways to take advantage of its services.
Open more sites.
Cuomo said this week that he’s looking at turning the Javits Center into a vaccinations center and finally announced on Friday that he would. What took him so long? He’s had months to come up with a distribution plan — and indeed junked the pre-existing county-based plan — but waited until doses going unused to make basic decisions. Now he suggests that unions set up their own vax sites?
Use the plans already on the table.
Why ignore the detailed vaccination plans that counties file every year? “We can get vaccines in the arms of people in a safe, efficient way, but instead it’s a convoluted, disorganized mess for no reason at all,” Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro told The Post.
But the gov’s priority hasn’t been getting New Yorkers vaccinated — it has been getting certain groups of New Yorkers vaccinated. He put addicts in rehab in Phase 1a, for example, ahead of the 75-and-up crowd that’s most at risk.
Start kicking the city bureaucracy.
Public hospitals have used just a third of their vaccine allotment, far slower than private ones: NewYork-Presbyterian has administered 99 percent of its doses. De Blasio needs to get on this.
Hire more staff, even if only temporary.
Added workers can help with set-up, planning, logistics, as well as administering the shot itself.
If not enough qualified people can be found, shift staff or recruit and train new workers. You don’t need to six years of medical school to administer a vaccine. For that reason, ensure that rules for who can administer shots aren’t overly restrictive.
Keep more sites open 24/7.
It’s critical to make it as easy as possible for New Yorkers to get their vaccines. Adding hours, along with sites, will provide more convenience and flexibility for those looking to be vaccinated and keep wait times short.
Operation Warp Speed produced a vaccine at record pace, cutting the normal yearslong process down to months. But that unprecedented achievement is going down the drain — sometimes literally. New York needs to get its act together.