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Cuomo announces prioritization of addicts in rehab for COVID-19 vaccine in New York

In a coronavirus briefing on Monday, Governor Andrew Cuomo said that vaccine priority would be given to drug addicts in recovery and rehab centers.

Libby Emmons Brooklyn, NY
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In a coronavirus briefing on Monday, Governor Andrew Cuomo said that vaccine priority would be given to drug addicts in recovery and rehab centers.

Cuomo announced during the conference that New York anticipates receipt of 259,000 doses of Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines combined, and that as well as those "individuals who are administering the COVID-19 vaccines, for obvious reasons," vaccines would be distributed to "OASAS" residents. His reasoning is that these are "congregate facilities."

OASAS facilities, run by the Office of Addiction Services and Supports, number 12 treatment centers across New York, five of which are in the New York City metropolitan area. The agency is also responsible for the certification and monitoring of "hundreds" more private facilities.

"Who is getting the vaccine?" Cuomo asked, then answered, "we have priority populations. As we have more vaccines the priority populations expand, going down the list, you have the number one priority, two, three, four, five, six seven.

"More vaccines you just work your way down that list. This week is going to be urgent care center employees, individuals who are administering the COVID-19 vaccines, for obvious reasons, including the local health department staff.

"Residents of OASAS facilities, these are congregate facilities, congregate facilities are problematic. That's where you have alot of people in concentration. Nursing homes are obviously the most problematic, because they're congregate plus older, vulnerable people. OASAS, what we call the OMH facilities, they're congregate, not necessarily older, but congregate facilities."

"We'll then continue with high-risk hospital care workers, federally qualified health center employees, EMS workers... Coroners, medical examiners, certain funeral workers, other OMH facilities, etc. These are all congregate facilities, where you have a number of people in one location."

Cuomo then spoke about who would be getting vaccinated beginning next week. The rollout began on Dec. 21, and "the most at risk" nursing homes were near the top of the list. Additional long-term care residents won't expect a vaccine dose until Phase 2 of the rollout plan.

According to New York's "vaccine prioritization matrix," healthcare workers get first dibs on the double dose vaccine, along with "long-term care facility (KTCF) workers who regularly interact with residents," as well as "most at-risk long-term care facility patients."

According to the AARP, "Adults over age 65 are in Phase 3 of New York’s five-phase vaccine distribution plan, behind first responders and certain essential workers."

They note that older adults, those over 65, will be unlikely to receive the vaccine until some time next year, seeing as the "the first vaccines are earmarked for health care workers in patient care settings, long-term care facility workers, and the residents most at risk in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Staff members at every hospital in the state are supposed to have access to the first vaccine allocations." They do not appear to be aware of the rehab centers.

Older New Yorkers, some 3.3 million people in the demographic among which the disease is most deadly, are in Phase 3 of the vaccine distribution plan in the state.

"They're in hase 3 of New York’s vaccine distribution plan," the AARP said, "which also includes individuals under 65 with high-risk comorbidities and health conditions."



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