Where does the immunocompromised population stand in COVID-19 vaccine roll-out?


ROCHESTER, N.Y (WROC) — When the CDC recommended the immunocompromised population be included in the next stage of the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he was overwhelmed and confused. This is a population he said could amount to up to 7 million people.

Since that announcement was made around mid-January, some answers have been provided.

As of Wednesday, the CDC recommends immunocompromised people get the vaccine in Phase 1C. Right now New York is in Phase 1B. But, rollout for this population is already happening in other states.

For example, in New Jersey, this immunocompromised population is included in Phase 1B, and the state goes on to define specific medical conditions like cancer and kidney disease. It also includes those ages 16 and up in the category. New York does not do this – and some people are confused as to what the plan is.

One local health facility Trillium Health is taking a lot of these confused phone calls from immunocompromised patients asking, when will they be able to make an appointment? And how do you know if you fall in this category?

“We received a lot of messages on portal saying, ‘hey, am I eligible’, those diabetic or living with HIV,” said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Biernbaum.

Dr. Biernbaum says it’s simply because there isn’t enough vaccine right now to cover this massive number of people. The state isn’t ready to further define this category for rollout: “There’s some limitations to the amount of vaccine we are receiving,” said Dr. Biernbaum.

He says as a result the state is only allowing the category to include those who live and work in homeless shelters. Nothing beyond that for the meantime. It’s unclear if the state will further define the category to include specific medical conditions next, But Dr. Biernbaum hopes they will be prioritized.

As for vaccine shortage – Gov. Cuomo said in a Wednesday afternoon press conference the Biden administration is upping vaccine allocation by 16% for our state. Gov Cuomo said this not solving everything overnight, but it’s a start.

“That’s going to be the allocation for the next three weeks so now we can come up with a three week plan. That doesn’t sound great, but it’s better than going week-to-week,” he said.

Bottom line: For now the focus is on those 65 and older, those in homeless shelters and those essential and healthcare workers in Phase 1A and 1B. More specifics are listed here. Those who still may be confused can visit the state “Am I Elligible Site”, a tool Dr. Biernbaum says is user-friendly.

News 8 also reached out to the NYS Department of Health for a response on any plans to further define the immunocompromised category, or include those with specific medical conditions to be next in rollout.

A state spokesperson responded with the following statement:

“We continue to do everything possible to get as many New Yorkers vaccinated as quickly as possible. Currently over 7 million New Yorkers are eligible for the vaccine, but our weekly allocation of doses from the federal government was cut without any explanation. We are encouraged by the new administration’s announcement that we will get a 16 percent greater allocation, and we hope to continue to receive more doses and guidance on this issue.”

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