NY’s draft vaccination plan prioritizes frontline workers and virus hotspots

Photos courtesy of the New York State Department of Health

In anticipation of a federally approved vaccine for COVID-19 coming this winter or spring, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has unveiled a draft plan for vetting and distributing the drug to New Yorkers.

Given the many unknowns at this point in the vaccine development process, the draft New York State COVID-19 Vaccination Administration Program is meant to be flexible and Cuomo says it accounts for “multiple variables and scenarios” regarding vaccine availability, timeline for vaccine approval, delineation of federal and state responsibilities, funding, supply chain needs, and allocation requirements.

In the plan that Cuomo released, everything from vaccine safety and efficacy to distribution priority groups, and from shipping conditions to data and IT concerns are referenced in this draft.

According to Cuomo’s office, it was developed with “leading clinical and public health experts, and requires collaboration and partnership with local departments of health, community partners and organizations, and the federal government.”

With no clear public timeline voiced by the president — who often provides vague or contradictory statements about the progress on a vaccine — Gov. Cuomo’s plan comes as an important step in giving New Yorkers a picture of what a future vaccination program might look like. 

“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” Cuomo said. 

Two separate tasks forces comprised of scientists, researchers and other experts have been formed in recent weeks to address vaccine-related issues: one is dedicated to planning logistics of the vaccine’s administration and delivery; the other is charged with assessing a vaccine’s safety and efficacy.

The draft plan states that New York State will only “endorse a vaccine that is determined to be safe” and if it is “demonstrated to be appropriately effective.”

The plan also discusses the likely prioritization of vaccine recipients, with frontline medical care workers, such as those who work in ICUs, emergency departments, and those working in long-term care facilities and the “most at-risk” long-term care residents, to be among those at the front of the line. 

The prioritization of vaccine recipients falls into three categories: High Risk Populations/ Essential Healthcare Workers; Lower Risk Populations/ Other Essential Workers, and the General Population.

These categories are broken down further into two categories: places where there is “High COVID-19 Prevalence in Geographic Area,” and places where there is “Low COVID-19 Prevalence in Geographic Area.”

These categories combined will determine who gets the vaccine first. 

For example, someone in the High Risk population/Essential Worker category who is in a place where there is “High COVID-19 Prevalence in Geographic Area” is regarded in the draft as “Priority 1.” Whereas someone in the same population or occupation category who lives in a place where there is “Low COVID-19 Prevalence in Geographic Area” is regarded as “Priority 2.” 

It continues this pattern through each category creating six priorities, with the General Population in place with “Low COVID-19 Prevalence in Geographic Area” being  “Priority 6.”

The plan also lists five additional prioritization phases to be used based on vaccine availability and vaccination rates, starting with those at most risk and ending with “healthy adults and children.”

A vaccine program won’t come cheap, however. 

According to the plan, “CDC Director Robert Redfield recently stated that Congress will need to allocate $5.5 to $6 billion to the states for this purpose.” 

However, at the time the draft of the plan was released, New York state has only received $7.8 million in funding for vaccination efforts.

In addition to this, the federal government has not defined the “the roles and responsibilities between the federal and state government, outlined how the vaccine will be funded or reimbursed, and provided other key details that will be required before New York can finalize plans for a vaccine program,” according to the press release. 

The draft of the plan can be read in its entirety here. And the press release from Gov. Cuomo’s Office can be accessed here.