Speaking to the press on Thursday morning, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said New York will conduct its own review of potential coronavirus vaccines.
“On the issue of the vaccine, like everything else in this country, it's partisan and it's questioned and there's controversy about it,” Cuomo said. “The way the federal government has handled the vaccine, there are now serious questions about whether or not the vaccine is become politicized. There's been tremendous reporting on that, and the people of this country don't trust this federal government with this vaccine process. How can I say that? I didn't say that, Americans said it. Fifty-four percent say they wouldn't take the vaccine yet.”
He explained, “The first question is, is the vaccine safe? Frankly, I'm not going to trust the federal government's opinion – and I wouldn't recommend to New Yorkers based on the federal government's opinion. Second question is – if it is a safe vaccine – how do you implement it? Implementation is a massive undertaking.
“On the first question of is it safe, New York state will have its own review. When the federal government is finished with their review and says it's safe.
“We're going to put together our own review committee headed by the Department of Health that will advise me – we have the best hospitals and research facilities on the globe in this state. We're going to put together a group for them to review the vaccine, so I can look at the camera and I can say to New Yorkers that it's safe to take. I want to make sure that we know it's safe to take.
“If the vaccine is safe, then we have to decide how do you actually implement it. They're talking about two shots necessary for a vaccine. We have 19.5 million New Yorkers. You're talking about 40 million doses being administered. You think what we went through thus far has been massive with the testing and the quarantine, etc. Administering a vaccine to every New Yorker? This is a massive undertaking and vaccines have to be stored at minus-80 degrees centigrade. You're going to have issues of public confidence, whether or not the vaccine is safe. We're not sure what the federal government's role is going to be. I don't think the federal government understands what its role is going to be. It's going to be a monumental undertaking in any event.
“I'm appointing a committee today that is going to come up with a vaccine distribution and implementation plan on how we will do it. The vaccine plan will include prioritization of the vaccine. Who gets the vaccine first based on medical standards, not anything else. How do we distribute it, who can administer it, how can we train those people, how do we train them now? People have to get two doses; they have to get two of the same medicine in those dosages. You then have to keep track of everyone who is vaccinated, when and what vaccine they actually received. And there's going to have to be a massive public education campaign that talks people through this and how to do it.
“We're also going to have to buy it and it's going to be expensive. Who do we buy it from? I want to make sure we don't go through that same mess that we went through on PPE procurement, where everyone is trying buy it at the same period of time and we wind up driving up the price.
“What do we want to accomplish in New York? We should have the best vaccination program in the United States of America. I think the way we have handled COVID has been a model for this country. I want New Yorkers to do the same thing with vaccines. We should be the model vaccination program in the country.
“I also think there's a tremendous advantage for any state that could be the first COVID-free state. How about the state that can say, ‘Our population is vaccinated. We are the first COVID-free state.’ What are the advantages to that statement in terms of public confidence, in terms of economic development, etc.? I mean, you feel now the advantages that New York has for having a lower infection rate: People want to come here, people feel safer here. What if we were the first state to fully vaccinate your entire population?
“So, those would be the goals. We're going to start; we're going to start now.”
A press release later in the day further explained a vaccine distribution and implementation task force will develop a plan for vaccine administration that will include:
√ Prioritization of vaccine recipients based solely on clinical guidance
√ Distribution network capable of providing two doses of vaccine to all New Yorkers
√ Qualified professionals and organizations to administer the vaccine
√ Data and IT infrastructure for scheduling appointments and tracking program metrics
√ Public education regarding vaccination program
√ Procurement of necessary supplies and equipment