ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — People with certain underlying health conditions are being added to the list of those eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in New York State, a decision local health experts are excited about. They say it will improve access to communities most at risk of complications from COVID-19.
The move comes as Governor Andrew Cuomo looks to extend access to the vaccine to vulnerable communities, and help hospitals get extra or unused vaccines into the arms of those who need it.
“It was great news,” said Dr. Robert Biernbaum, Chief Medical Officer at Trillium Health. “One of the things people have been asking is ‘when am I next? I’m worried, I have medical issues.'”
94 percent of the state’s COVID-19 deaths involved people with comorbidities, according to the governor. Things like Cancer, kidney and pulmonary diseases, developmental disabilities like Down Syndrome, and more. People with any of these listed conditions are at risk for complications or even death from COVID-19.
One of the categories that stands out is obesity. Including this in the list will open the door for thousands in the community to get a vaccine.
“People who are overweight can have a worse outcome than people who are not, so I think it’s really great that this was included,” said Dr. Biernbaum.
Experts at GRYT health, a support and resource group for cancer patients and survivors in Rochester, are also celebrating the move. They say 1 in 4 cancer patients who get COVID-19 are at high risk for death.
“A lot of cancer patients are immuno-suppressed because of the medication that they’re on and because of the treatment they received, chemotherapy, also patients who have finished treatment tend to maintain that that immuno-suppression for a period of time a year, usually 6 moths to a year,” said Daniel Platt, Chief Medical Officer GRYT Health. “So it’s really, really important these people get the vaccine and get it as soon as possible.”
Health leaders did warn that vaccine supply is still a huge issue, and while it is great eligibility has been expanded, there will still be delays. They say to always check with your health care provider to see when you are eligible.
Eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine for those with underlying conditions starts February 15th.
The list is subject to change as additional scientific evidence is published and analyzed.