Less than two months into New York’s flawed and slow vaccine rollout, leaders of unions, professional organizations, and advocacy groups are asking when their members will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Already 7 million New Yorkers are eligible to receive the vaccine, including all people aged 65 and older. As of Jan. 19, the state had administered 920,000 total doses, representing three-fourths of all the doses it has received from the federal government.
The rollout has been widely criticized – called complicated and time-consuming, with little help from city agencies for the elderly. Mayor de Blasio has called on the state and federal government to give the city more vaccine doses. Gov. Cuomo has criticized the city for its inefficient distribution of vaccines.
“Our singular goal is to get as many New Yorkers vaccinated as quickly as possible – but due to a lack of supply from the federal government, we have been forced to limit eligibility,” said Jonah Bruno, at the state’s Department of Health. “While we understand these groups’ concerns and are sensitive to their requests, we are constrained until the Federal government steps up and provides more doses.”
Without a clear answer on who is next in line for eligibility, leaders of various organizations are scrambling to plead their case on behalf of members. The next phase of eligibility, 1c, is scheduled to begin in March or April, according to a city website, which says 1c will include “All other essential workers… to be determined by New York State.”
Critics have questioned the reasoning behind some of the eligibility rules. For example, public transportation workers are eligible but not FHV or Taxi drivers. Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, called Taxi drivers’ exclusion from the eligibility rules “outrageous.”
“Drivers have been economically crushed by the impact of COVID, but also what we’ve seen is many drivers, when they’ve gone back to work, they’ve contracted COVID fairly early,” she added.
It remains unclear what percentage of each group of workers will accept the vaccine if they are eligible. Though many Americans were initially skeptical, polls show increasing interest. A poll of sanitation workers, conducted in December, suggested that fewer than half the workers would take it. By late Jan., that number had increased dramatically. Experts say that seeing other people get the vaccine safely and without side effects is driving interest.