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State-run sites to vaccinate people with certain underlying conditions 

click to enlarge A staffer preps an injection of the COVID-19 vaccine. - PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE / WXXI NEWS
  • PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE / WXXI NEWS
  • A staffer preps an injection of the COVID-19 vaccine.
State-run vaccination sites will begin accepting appointments for immunocompromised New Yorkers beginning Feb. 14.

Cuomo, who announced the availability of the appointments on Monday, had already said that people with underlying conditions will become eligible for the vaccine on Feb. 15. Those conditions include cancer, heart conditions, COPD, chronic kidney disease, Type 1 and 2 diabetes, moderate to severe asthma, people with intellectual and development disabilities, organ transplant recipients, and people who are morbidly obese.

Initially, the vaccines were to be available through county health departments only, but Cuomo is now opening up the state’s mass vaccination sites to people with serious underlying conditions as well.

“People with co-morbidities can begin making appointments on the state sites Feb. 14 to open Feb. 15,” Cuomo said.

Appointments can begin on Feb. 15 at local health departments, but the governor is leaving the specific rules on how to sign up for local health department appointments up to the localities.

People will need to provide a letter from their doctor or other proof that they have one of the medical conditions listed. They can also sign an affidavit, certifying that they have a co-morbidity, and those answers will be audited to make sure the rules are followed.

But Melissa DeRosa, the governor’s chief of staff, warned that the immunocompromised will be in a competition to gain an appointment time.

“There will be a crush; this will not be perfect,” said DeRosa.

She said she’s aware that there are hundreds of thousands of people on the website on a daily basis, constantly refreshing their browsers to try to gain access to the appointment signup forms.

“That traffic is only going to increase,” DeRosa said.

DeRosa said the state is doing its best to adapt to ever-changing circumstances.

“We sympathize with people who desperately want this vaccine,” said DeRosa. “But we are in a position where we are reacting to things that are directly out of our control.”

In a statement released Monday evening, Monroe County Executive Adam Bello and Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza said that they are reviewing the state's full guidance on the vaccination expansion and working with health care providers on local implementation. "As soon as we are notified as to Monroe County’s allocation of doses for people with comorbidities, we will be able to work with the systems to make appointments available," the statement read.

"We understand residents are anxious to be vaccinated, and rightfully so. However, eligibility does not equal availability right now as demand continues to greatly outweigh vaccine allocation in our region and across the state."

About 75 percent of all essential care hospital workers have now been vaccinated, leaving more doses each week available for the immunocompromised. The governor said he believes there will be additional doses that will not be used in nursing homes, after everyone who wants a vaccine in the homes gets one.

But Cuomo said the biggest problem is that there are not enough doses yet to accommodate everyone who wants a vaccine and who is eligible.

“You don’t have the supply to do it,” he said.

He said President Joe Biden’s aides will hold a briefing Tuesday with governors, and he hopes to hear that more doses will become available to states.

Here is the full list of conditions acceptable under the category of immunocompromised, from the state Department of Health website:

Adult New Yorkers of any age with the following conditions qualify for the vaccine:

• Cancer (current or in remission, including 9/11-related cancers).
• Chronic kidney disease.
• Pulmonary disease, including but not limited to COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma (moderate to severe), pulmonary fibrosis, cystic fibrosis, and 9/11-related pulmonary diseases.
• Intellectual and developmental disabilities, including Down syndrome.
• Heart conditions, including but not limited to heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies or hypertension (high blood pressure).
• Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system), including but not limited to solid organ transplant or from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, use of other immune-weakening medicines, or other causes.
• Severe obesity (body mass index of 40 kg/m2) and obesity (body mass index of 30 kg/m2 or higher).
• Pregnancy.
• Sickle cell disease or thalassemia.
• Type 1 or 2 diabetes mellitus.
• Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain).
• Neurologic conditions, including but not limited to Alzheimer's disease or dementia.
• Liver disease.

The list is subject to change as additional scientific evidence is published and as New York state obtains and analyzes additional state-specific data.

Karen DeWitt covers Albany for WXXI News, a media partner of CITY. Jeremy Moule, CITY's news editor, contributed to this report. He can be reached at jmoule@rochester-citynews.com.

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