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Immunocompromised New Yorkers Can Sign Up At State Vax Sites On Feb. 14

A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared at the New York State drive-thru vaccination site at Plattsburgh International Airport.
Office of N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo
A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared at the New York State drive-thru vaccination site at Plattsburgh International Airport.

Governor Andrew Cuomo said state run vaccination sites will begin accepting appointments for immunocompromised New Yorkers, beginning February 14.

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

Initially the vaccines would only be available through county health departments, but Cuomo is now opening up the state’s mass vaccination sites to the immune compromised, as well.

“People with comorbidities can begin making appointments on the state sites on February 14 to open February 15,” Cuomo said. Appointments can also begin on February 15 at local health departments, but the governor is leaving to the localities the specific rules on how to sign up for local health department appointments.

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 the governor’s chief of staff, Melissa DeRosa, warns that the immune compromised will be in a competition to gain an appointment time.

“There will be crush; this will not be perfect,” said DeRosa, who said she knows 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 sign up 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.”

Seventy-five percent of all essential care hospital workers have now been vaccinated, leaving more doses each week available for the immune compromised. And 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 just 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 on Tuesday that President Joe Biden’s aids will hold a briefing with governors, and he hopes to hear that more doses will become available to states.

The full list of conditions acceptable under the category of immune compromised, 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 (BMI 40 kg/m2), Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 kg/m2 or higher but < 40 kg/m2)
  • 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 has covered state government and politics for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 New York and Connecticut stations, since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers.