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New York Lowers Vaccine Age Eligibility to 50, Launches New Distribution Program

NEW YORK NOW - New Yorkers above the age of 50 will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine starting Tuesday, regardless of underlying conditions and other factors, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.

New York state will also allow houses of worship to serve as vaccination distribution facilities, starting in April, in an effort to deliver the injection to underserved communities.

Cuomo said that, while the state’s distribution network can handle the current supply of vaccines sent from the federal government, that infrastructure will have to ramp up in the coming weeks as more doses are received.

“You will see a spike in the allocation. That spike in the allocation will then flip the challenge to the distribution side,” Cuomo said. “We are actively recruiting additional distribution mechanisms.”

As part of a new campaign, Cuomo’s office is encouraging faith-based institutions to partner with medical providers to launch local vaccination clinics. More than 200 houses of worship have already signed onto the initiative, according to Cuomo’s office.

It’s part of the state’s efforts to increase vaccination rates in underserved neighborhoods, including communities of color, Cuomo said. Any institution that participates will be allocated doses of the vaccine by the state.

“Not only do we have to do the vaccinations, we have to do it equitably,” Cuomo said. “We still have not reached fairness and equity in the number of vaccines.”

For the last three weeks, more than a million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been delivered to New York. That includes first and second doses, when applicable, and those received directly by federal vaccination sites.

Cuomo said that number would likely continue to increase, both because of an expected increase in supply of the existing COVID-19 vaccines and the possibility of a new injection on the market from AstraZeneca.

In new data released Monday, AstraZeneca said a trial of its vaccine showed it to be 79% effective at preventing symptoms of COVID-19. The pharmaceutical company is now expected to seek emergency use authorization from the federal government.

Health officials in New York don’t know how much the new vaccine would affect the state’s supply, and if that could mean a wider eligibility for the injection.

As of Tuesday, anyone above the age of 50 will be eligible to make an appointment for the vaccine, and the state is slowly adding different workers to the list as well.

About 2.6 million people in New York have been fully vaccinated, according to Cuomo, and a total of 7.7 million doses have been administered overall.