Last week, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo threatened to bring the hammer down on medical personnel who dared provide COVID-19 vaccinations to anyone not belonging to a group on his approved list of priorities.
Mr. Cuomo issued an executive order Dec. 28 declaring that health care professionals may lose their medical licenses and be fined up to $1 million if they deviated from his vaccine rollout plan. This stemmed from an investigation into potentially unauthorized vaccinations by ParCare Community Health Network. The first round of shots is reserved for health care workers and residents of nursing facilities.
The governor is again rattling his saber. But this time, it’s directed at hospitals not delivering vaccinations quickly enough. They must administer the shots by the end of this week or face a financial penalty.
“State hospitals could be fined up to $100,000 for not administering the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to eligible New Yorkers quickly enough, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday, as most New York medical facilities have distributed less than half of their state-allocated vaccine dosages,” according to a story published Monday by the Watertown Daily Times. “The state’s 194 hospitals, including 24 public and 170 private institutions, have vaccinated New Yorkers at various rates. Last week, New York received 259,000 more vaccine dosages, with 139,400 from Pfizer and about 119,000 of Moderna’s immunization, in addition to 636,200 doses the state had as of Christmas week. Cuomo released a list of 20 hospitals Monday — 10 administering the vaccine the fastest and the 10 slowest.”
Mr. Cuomo isn’t playing around here.
“I don’t mean to embarrass any hospital, but I want them to be held accountable,” he said Monday during a coronavirus briefing in the state Capitol, the Times article reported. “We need them to administer the vaccines faster. ... It’s not just the function of size; it’s a function of administrative capacity. We want those vaccines in people’s arms. I need those public officials to step in and manage those systems.”
We agree that public officials must oversee this process. The problem is that the Cuomo administration has tried to micromanage the vaccination rollout since the drugs became available last month.
For years, public health departments in many counties across New York developed their own plans for administering vaccines in case of an epidemic. This makes the most sense. They are in close contact with local health care facilities and understand demographics of their respective communities.
So they know what groups of people would be the most vulnerable to an outbreak of a particular virus. Allowing them to work with hospitals to decide how to deliver vaccines is a reasonable proposal.
However, state officials discarded the plans drafted by public health departments. Following Mr. Cuomo’s directives, they opted for a single plan to be carried out.
A one-size-fits-all approach isn’t appropriate under these circumstances. Just like with the lockdowns, data from individual regions need to be evaluated to determine what solutions will work best.
State authorities should allow health care facilities more flexibility in administering vaccinations. Some groups of people in specific areas may be more in need of immediate attention than similar groups in others. This is particularly vital now that a new strain of the novel coronavirus, which is much more contagious, has been documented in parts of New York.
We appreciate Mr. Cuomo’s desire to see the vaccines delivered more quickly. But he should recognize that loosening his grip on the process to some extent will help achieve this goal.