NY Expands Vaccine Access Based on Health Conditions

Adults of any age with conditions that can make Covid-19 symptoms severe or even deadly are eligible to get the vaccine in New York as of Feb. 15.

Yankee Stadium opened as a Covid-19 vaccination site Friday, drawing lines of people from surrounding neighborhoods in the Bronx. The mega-site is being restricted to Bronx residents as a way to boost vaccination rates in the New York City borough with the highest percentage of positive coronavirus test results. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

MANHATTAN (CN) — With more than 1.5 million New Yorkers at least partially vaccinated against Covid-19, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that people with high-risk conditions will be able to get their shots in the coming weeks.

The expansion Cuomo announced Friday during a state pandemic status update focuses on comorbidity. Often used to describe chronic conditions that compound one another, the term refers to when someone has more than one disease or condition at the same time.

Along with age, comorbidities are major factors when it comes to the risk of dying from Covid-19. Cuomo several times on Friday cited a statistic from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention reporting that 94% of people who died after having Covid-19 also had another condition that contributed to complications. 

In deaths where those conditions or causes were present, there were an average of nearly three conditions per patient, according to the CDC. 

Beginning Feb. 15, Cuomo announced Friday, adults with illnesses including cancer, chronic kidney disease and heart conditions are eligible to receive a vaccine against Covid-19. Pregnant women and people with diabetes or neurological conditions are among the group with comorbidities and underlying conditions now included.

Cuomo said the state will focus on populations more vulnerable to severe illness from the coronavirus while distributing a limited supply of vaccine.

“We do not have a supply that can reach everyone — we understand that,” he said. “So the prioritization is to reach those people who are most at-risk or most essential to this period of time.” 

Cuomo acknowledged the risks of severe Covid-19 among hospital staff and people in nursing, saying that “after that” should come those with health risks because of comorbidities — regardless of their line of work. 

“You do every group of people in this state when you do people with comorbidities,” Cuomo said. “If you are a carpenter with a comorbidity, if you are a teacher with a comorbidity, if you are a homemaker with a comorbidity, if you’re a lawyer with a comorbidity — whoever you are.” 

Cuomo did not specify Friday whether incarcerated people with comorbidities are included in the next wave of vaccine expansion. 

lawsuit filed Thursday called out New York officials, including Cuomo himself, for vaccine protocols that do not prioritize prison detainees, despite health experts’ warnings about the riskiness of living in congregate settings. 

A spokesman for New York’s Department of Corrections and Community Supervision said the agency “is in the process of preparing to vaccinate” detainees aged 65 and older, accounting for nearly 1,100 people, “consistent with statewide guidance for that age group.” 

The department said it cannot comment on pending litigation, and that it is “still working with [the New York Department of Health] to develop a plan, as part of the New York State Covid-19 Vaccination Program, for the incarcerated population.”

Cuomo warned hospitals and officials that time is short before the new guidelines take effect. 

“We have one week,” he said. “Local health departments, start preparing for it.” 

Moderna and Pfizer are the two vaccine makers whose products have emergency-use authorization in the United States. Both are most effective when given as two shots, several weeks apart.

According to the state’s vaccine tracker, nearly 2 million New Yorkers have gotten both doses as of 11 a.m. Friday. That’s 10% of the state and about a quarter of America’s fully vaccinated population of 7.5 million.
State officials note that the full list of comorbidities and underlying conditions could change in the future, but right now it includes adults of any age with the following conditions:

+ Cancer, current or in remission, including 9/11-related cancer
+ Chronic kidney disease
+ Lung conditions like moderate to severe asthma, pulmonary fibrosis, cystic fibrosis, and 9/11-related pulmonary diseases
+ Intellectual and developmental disabilities including Down syndrome
+ Heart conditions, including hypertension
+ Immune deficiencies, including HIV
+ Obesity and severe obesity
+ Pregnancy
+ Sickle cell disease or Thalassemia
+ Type 1 or 2 diabetes mellitus
+ Cerebrovascular disease
+ Neurologic conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease or dementia
+ Liver disease

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