New York outlines initial strategy for prioritizing COVID vaccine distribution

October 19, 2020

Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels

Given the many unknowns surrounding a COVID-19 vaccine, as well as skepticism that certain vaccine trials could be politically motivated, Governor Cuomo announced last month that the state would put together a Clinical Advisory Task Force to advise New Yorkers on the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness. In addition, over the weekend, the NYS Department of Health released a draft COVID-19 Vaccination Administration Program “that serves as an initial framework for ensuring the safe and effective distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine in New York.” According to the preliminary plan, the vaccine would be distributed in five phases, with high-risk populations and essential workers prioritized. 

“We are coming up with a plan on many presumptions. We don’t know how many doses we’re going to get. We don’t know what vaccine we’re going to get. We don’t know when we’re going to get it. The state will have a statewide vaccination plan. We will do it in concert with the federal government. The federal government is in charge of producing the actual vaccine and distributing the vaccines,” said Governor Cuomo. “States cannot do this on their own. Period. This is a massive undertaking. This is a larger operational undertaking than anything we have done under COVID to date. This is a more complicated undertaking and task. And we need the federal government to be a competent partner with this state and with every state.”

To that end, the National Governors Association, which is chaired by Governor Cuomo, sent a list of questions to the Trump Administration yesterday to gain clarity on how individual states will be able to effectively distribute and administer a vaccine.  The 35 questions, which the Association hopes Trump will answer during an in-person meeting, were divided into three broad categories–funding for vaccine administration, allocation and supply chain, and communication and information requirements.

“We need to answer these questions before the vaccine is available so that we are ready to go and no one is caught flat-footed when the time comes to vaccinate people,” said Governor Cuomo.

But until there are more concrete answers, the state is beginning to plan its strategy the best it can. The draft COVID-19 Vaccination Administration Program (PDF) has 11 guiding principles, but the biggest takeaway is the prioritization and phasing.

In a press release from the Governor’s office, the prioritization matrix is as follows:

The following proposed additional prioritization phases would be used based on vaccine availability and vaccination rates:

The Department of Health developed the plan in consultation with leading clinical and public health experts; it was designed to be flexible to account for the lack of federal insight at this point. It also is dependent on “the building and maintaining of public trust in the product and the process.” A CNN Poll conducted by SSRS earlier this month showed that, if a COVID vaccine were widely available at a low-cost, only 51 percent of Americans would try to get vaccinated. That is down from 66 percent in May.


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