Snow, ice delay COVID vaccines

A man is vaccinated against for COVID-19 at a downstate mass vaccination site. Tribune News Service

ALBANY — Next week’s federal deliveries of the COVID-19 vaccine are expected to face additional national delays because of persisting snow storms, ice and frigid temperatures impacting several U.S. states, officials said Friday.

Nearly all of the state’s coronavirus vaccine doses — up to about 315,000 each week — for the 10th week of distribution are delayed because of ongoing winter storms. The shipments were originally scheduled to arrive to localities, pharmacies, community-based Federally Qualified Health Centers and other sites between Feb. 12 and 21.

“The snow has had an effect on distribution of vaccines across the country,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday afternoon during a briefing in the state Capitol. “The White House made it clear that the storms affected many of the transport hubs.”

Locally, the Jefferson County centralized COVID-19 vaccination site did not receive their allotted doses this week, so no doses were administered.

But not all clinics have been canceled. In a release Thursday afternoon, Kinney Drugs confirmed all of its scheduled second dose clinics were continuing as planned.

Shipments of Pfizer’s vaccine are scheduled to arrive Monday, while orders placed late this week are expected to arrive next Tuesday and Wednesday. Delayed shipments of Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine should arrive by the middle of next week, with the last deliveries arriving next Thursday and Friday, Cuomo said.

Vaccine appointments remain unaffected for New Yorkers who have a scheduled appointment at a distribution site, including mass state or federal-run locations.

State officials will notify residents immediately if reservations must be rescheduled.

“Appointments will be postponed — not canceled,” said Financial Services Deputy Superintendent Gareth Rhodes, a leading member of the state’s Coronavirus Task Force.

Many state distribution sites have leftover supply from the first nine weeks of allocation.

“We will continue to track these shipments closely over the coming days and keep New Yorkers informed about any changes in existing appointments,” Cuomo said. “We have been in constant contact with our federal partners to track any incoming shipments and make the necessary adjustments to our operations.”

The state is working to redistribute leftover vaccine doses from state hospitals, health centers and congregate facilities. Some health workers and adult care facility residents and staff refused to receive the immunization.

Officials have not specified how many leftover doses were sent to other distribution sites. Last week, Cuomo estimated several thousand leftover injections.

The governor on Friday required all local and county executives to review their area’s distribution sites, including federal and state-run locations. Vaccination hesitancy and overall immunization rates are lower among Black and Hispanic populations.

The governor virtually met with municipal officials this week, asking them to ensure equitable vaccination to all areas and communities — especially communities of color and low-income neighborhoods.

“Look at your county, look at your city and make sure the coverage and the actual vaccinations are fair by geography and by race,” Cuomo said. “How many is the city of Buffalo getting versus ... the north part of the county? The southern part of the county? How many vaccinations have been given to the white community versus the Black community or the Hispanic community?”

“We’re going to have to constantly adjust ... These new sites we opened with (Federal Emergency Management Agency) are targeted at this population, but I need the local governments to do this also.”

Counties and localities expect slight increases in vaccine shipments in the coming weeks after the federal government announced increases up to 16% in available doses.

About 12% of New York’s roughly 19 million residents have received at least one of two required doses of the coronavirus vaccine.

The state reported 2,147,076 New Yorkers have received one dose as of Friday afternoon. About 98% of the state’s vaccine supply delivered in the first nine weeks, or since Dec. 14, has been administered.

The state’s COVID-19 infection rate declined Friday to 3.49% from 3.58% on Wednesday, but is down from more than 4% last week.

New York’s seven-day average positivity rate has declined for 42 days to 3.6%, down from a peak of 7.94% on Jan. 4.

The north country’s infection rate increased to 3.91% on Friday from 3.7% and also went up to 2.33% in the Finger Lakes from 2.2% earlier this week. The Capital Region stayed about flat at 2.1% positivity Friday. New York City’s positivity is 4.4%.

Statewide virus hospitalizations declined 279 people to 6,155 patients Friday. An average of 130 COVID patients left New York hospitals each day this week.

The state reported 116 New Yorkers died from COVID-19 on Thursday — up slightly from 106 Tuesday, but down from about 130 virus fatalities per day for the last two weeks.

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