New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed a new law that would make it a crime to administer the coronavirus vaccine to anyone who is not eligible under his rollout guidelines. Currently, eligibility is limited to health care workers, first responders, and people living in congregate settings such as nursing homes. That leaves millions of New Yorkers ineligible even as doses go unused and expire.
The boneheaded idiocy of this plan is that if health care facilities do not have enough eligible people to inoculate, they must destroy doses rather than give them to ineligible people. Put more bluntly, facilities that do not allow the doses to expire are subject to criminal penalty as are those vaccinated not in accordance with the plan.
While it makes sense to prioritize certain groups in vaccine administration, to do so at the expense of destroying doses makes absolutely no sense at all. Take a case this past week in Kentucky in which a pharmacist, realizing that the pharmacy’s doses were set to expire, gave them to two customers who were not on the approved list. That sounds like plain good sense, but under Emperor Cuomo’s proposal, it would be a criminal action.
This is inexplicable. Giving the vaccine to those not on a high-priority list still offers protection to the community. These people become broken links in the transmission chain. If they are exposed to the virus, they are not able to transmit it to anyone else. Is this as strong a health benefit as vaccinating health workers and the elderly? No. But it beats the hell out of just letting the doses go to waste.
Cuomo is apparently concerned that there could be a black market for the vaccine, which he described as “like gold to some people.” But the fact of the matter is that many eligible people are choosing not to be vaccinated. This creates a massive opportunity for waste when facilities order or receive more doses than they wind up needing.
The end of Cuomo’s dictatorial rule under emergency powers depends upon vaccinating a large percentage of New Yorkers, meaning his mishandling of the rollout is prolonging the lockdown and his own emergency powers. This is absolute madness. The first priority here should be to make sure all of the vaccine doses are used. Getting them to the people who need them most has to be a secondary goal given that loosening restrictions on our lives will depend on far more than just inoculating the first wave of those eligible.
This is just another example of bungling from the same governor who put COVID-19-infected patients in nursing homes and has also proposed detaining people against their will if they are suspected of being ill. One almost gets the sense that the governor isn’t quite ready to hand over the power the virus has given him and is willing to put New Yorkers’ lives at risk to keep it. Get the doses in people’s arms, Cuomo. For once in this pandemic, try to actually do the right thing.