Invoking equal protection under the law, Gov. Andrew Cuomo says his administration will take the Trump administration to court if they do not revise their COVID-19 vaccine deployment plan to better serve Black and Brown communities.
Citing that black New Yorkers are twice as likely as white residents to die from COVID-19 – and two and a half times more likely to have underlying conditions – Cuomo said on Sunday that his administration would be building an “army” of lawyers to do battle with the Trump administration in court if minority communities are again left out in the cold for the vaccine amid a second wave.
“The Trump administration is designing the distribution plan and basically has private healthcare companies administer the vaccine; hospitals, drug stores, doctors offices, et cetera,” Cuomo said. “But we know that our black, brown and poorer communities have fewer healthcare institutions. They’re communities are all too often healthcare deserts. That’s why we have more underlying conditions and that’s why the COVID death toll is so high for black and brown communities… We can’t compound the racial injustice that COVID already created.”
Faith institutions, community groups and outreach teams to housing developments and low income communities are the missing piece of the vaccination puzzle, according to Cuomo, who stressed that it has taken this long in the pandemic to test 120 million people. Vaccinating 130 million, a nationwide goal determined by health officials, is something Cuomo has regarded as a monumental effort.
“New York State will mobilize an army to vaccinate all New Yorkers fairly and equitably. No state will do it better,” Cuomo said. “But we need the federal resources to do it. New York State already has a $15 billion deficit… Their own federal government CDC says it will cost $6.6 billion to do a fair distribution program. They’ve only provided $140 million.”
Again, Cuomo promised that the state of New York, and six other northeast states, will be making an independent review of the vaccine developed by Pfizer with an 90% efficacy rate, to add legitimacy to the elixir and promote public confidence in it, he said.
“Any plan that intentionally burdens communities of color to hinder access to the vaccine deprives those communities of equal protection under the law and equal protection is enshrined in the Constitution of these United States. The Supreme Court held in Plyler v. Doe, 1982, that the denial of certain rights to, and I quote, an isolated group poses an affront to one of the goals of the equal protections clause,” Cuomo continued. “The Trump administration’s proposed plan is just such an affront. I tell you today, if the Trump administration does not change this plan and does not provide an equitable vaccine process, we will enforce our legal rights and bring legal action to protect New Yorkers.”
The National Urban League under the leadership of Marc Morial, NAACP, and Hazel Dukes will be allies in Governor Cuomo’s pursuit of legal action against the White House administration in the few months it has left in power before the Biden-Harris Transition team can take over.
“The vaccine will be available to the entire general population, with the exception of places like New York State, where – for political reasons – the governor decided to say… I don’t think it’s good politically, I think it’s very bad from a health standpoint, but, he wants to take his time with the vaccine and he doesn’t trust where the vaccine is coming from,” President Donald Trump said on Saturday.
Speaking at the Riverside Church in Morningside Heights, Cuomo did not take any questions from the media.