By Maria Caspani and Jonathan Allen
New York officials said on Monday that they feared efforts to accelerate the vaccination of people against the novel coronavirus will be hampered by an insufficient supply of doses from the U.S. government.
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he wants to vaccinate 1 million residents, about an eighth of the population, by the end of January.
So far, about 194,000 people in the city have received at least the first of two doses of a vaccine. The city has another 230,000 doses on hand, and is expecting to receive another 100,000 this week, officials said on Monday.
“We’re going to run out of doses in the next few weeks if we don’t get more of a supply coming in,” de Blasio told reporters.
U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, who takes office on Jan. 20, is considering distributing more doses to states by departing from the current practice of holding back a supply to ensure that required second doses of the vaccines are available on schedule.
Second shots of the two vaccines authorized so far are supposed to be given three or four weeks after the first.
The slow rollout of vaccinations has yet to make a dent in the health crisis as the pandemic continues to surge across the United States, claiming on average about 3,200 lives each day over the last week. COVID-19 has killed more than 374,000 people in the United States since the pandemic began.
Still, some public health experts have noted that no U.S. state, including New York, has so far come close to using up its federal allotments of vaccines, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This is due in part to the slow expansion of a patchwork system of vaccination centers and, in some instances, rigid rules that sharply limit who can receive a vaccine.
States in recent days have been adding vaccination capacity with the ad hoc conversion of sports venues, convention halls and empty schools into vaccine centers.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo relented last week on his demand that all healthcare workers be offered a vaccine before members of other vulnerable groups become eligible, which led to hundreds of doses being wasted as half-finished vials were discarded at the end of each day.
He has since said that certain groups of other essential workers and people over age 75 as of Monday can make appointments to receive a shot. In contrast, Texas and Florida have been vaccinating people over age 65 since late December, although reports from those states have indicated that demand has far outstripped available vaccination appointments.
There are now over 4 million people in New York state eligible to receive the vaccine out of a population of about 19 million, Cuomo said on Monday at his annual State of the State Address, but only about 1 million doses on hand.
“We only receive 300,000 doses per week from the federal government,” he said. “At this rate, it will take us 14 weeks, just to receive enough dosages for those currently eligible.”
(Reporting by Maria Caspani and Jonathan Allen in New York; Additional reporting by Anurag Maan; Editing by Bill Berkrot)
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