Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday issued a letter to Pfizer Chairman and CEO Dr. Albert Bourla asking for the ability to purchase COVID-19 vaccines directly from Pfizer, as the company is not bound by commitments that Moderna made under Operation Warp Speed.
In his letter, Governor Cuomo said the distribution of any doses obtained directly from Pfizer will follow the rigorous guidance the State has established, while enabling the state to fill the dosage gap created this week by the outgoing federal administration.
"On behalf of all New Yorkers, I want to thank you and the teams at Pfizer and BioNTech for your hard work to develop a safe, effective vaccine for COVID-19. The last ten months have been exceptionally dark — but your efforts have provided a bright light at the end of the tunnel and hope for a better future," stated Governor Cuomo.
"It is abundantly clear that these vaccines are the weapons that will finally win the war against COVID-19. But with hospitalizations and deaths increasing across the country this winter, we are in a footrace with the virus, and we will lose unless we dramatically increase the number of doses getting to New Yorkers.
"After myself and seven other governors called on the Trump Administration to release more doses, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said that relief was on the way. To date, however, the federal government has not acted on that promise — in fact, New York will receive just 250,000 doses this week, 50,000 fewer than the week prior."
Governor Cuomo said directly purchasing doses from Pfizer will further the state's goal to vaccinate 70 to 90 percent of New Yorkers as soon as possible and reach herd immunity.
"You no doubt understand the challenges New York and other states face. Shifting guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention drove the number of New Yorkers eligible and prioritized for the vaccine from 5 million to 7 million practically overnight. The federal administration essentially opened up a floodgate while cutting our supply — leading to confusion, frustration, and dashed hopes," he said.
"Pfizer is a New York company – something I am greatly proud of. The company's decision to opt out of Operation Warp Speed, which the Biden administration plans to overhaul, puts it in a unique situation that could help us save lives right here in New York. I am happy to discuss this matter further with you."
And Governor Cuomo announced that a total of 153 COVID-19 deaths were recorded on Sunday while the state recorded 8,868 patient hospitalizations, with 1,523 patients in the ICU; and 997 intubated, representing statewide positivity rate is 6.54 percent.
"While we are encouraged as the numbers begin to come back down to pre-holiday surge levels, we still have a long way to go before we reach the light at the end of the tunnel," Governor Cuomo said.
"Not only has the federal government opened up the floodgates of eligibility without increasing the supply of vaccine, now we are seeing new strains of the virus from the UK, South Africa and Brazil that could spark a second wave – yet the federal government continues to do nothing. If these strains hit, we will see our numbers go right back up.
"New York has used our experience from the spring to prepare our hospitals and our residents as we continue to fight this invisible enemy and it's time for the federal government to follow suit – increase the vaccine supply, test international travelers and actually work with states to win this war."
Meanwhile, Governor Cuomo announced Monday eight community vaccination kits have been deployed to churches and cultural institutions in New York City, Long Island and Westchester.
He said these sites will bolster New York State's efforts to equitably distribute the COVID-19 vaccine to communities of color and low-income communities that are underserved by traditional healthcare institutions.
Governor Cuomo said the Manhattan site at Abyssinian Baptist Church opened Sunday while the remaining sites Monday.
He said Reverend Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III of the Abyssinian Baptist Church was the first to be vaccinated at the site.
The sites opened to all eligible New Yorkers and that the state was planning similar pop-up vaccination sites in upstate communities.
"The State is working quickly to open vaccination sites across the state to get needles into the arms of eligible New Yorkers as quickly and fairly as possible, despite the low supply from the federal government," Governor Cuomo said.
"We've said from day one of the vaccination effort that we will not allow communities of color and low-income neighborhoods in healthcare deserts to be left behind when it comes to the COVID vaccination effort.
"Churches and cultural institutions are critical partners in this effort, and these eight sites will help get the vaccine to more eligible New Yorkers faster even as we contend with the federal government's supply shortages."
The establishment of these eight sites was made possible through partnerships with both SOMOS and Northwell Health. The eight sites that were opened on Sunday and Monday are located at the addresses below:
Manhattan: Abyssinian Baptist Church, 132 W 138th St., New York, NY 10030
Brooklyn: Christian Cultural Center, 12020 Flatlands Ave., Brooklyn, 11207
Bronx: Community Protestant Church 1659 E Gun Hill Rd, The Bronx, NY 10469
Queens: Queens Baptist Church, 93-23 217th St., Queens Village, NY 1142
Nassau County: Grace Cathedral International, 886 Jerusalem Ave., Uniondale NY, 11554.
Suffolk County: Prayer Tabernacle COGIC, 3550 Great Neck Rd., Amityville, NY 11701
Staten Island: Mt. Sinai Center for Community Enrichment, 382 Jersey St., Staten Island, NY 10301
Westchester County: Calvary Baptist Church, 188 Orawaupum St., White Plains, NY 10606
SOMOS Community Chairman Dr. Ramon Tallaj said, "During the first wave of the pandemic, and through our years of work treating lower income communities of color – who historically fall through the cracks – my network has created a national model of quality, preventative healthcare on behalf of the most underserved communities of the United States—a model based on cultural competency, increased access, equity, and the ability of community-based medicine to successfully address the social determinants of health.
Now, amidst a COVID 19 vaccine roll-out marked by mistrust, scarcity, and urgency, this national model has never been so critical to protecting our people – in New York and nationally in similar communities.
With the support of city & state leadership like Governor Cuomo and faith leaders like Reverend Butts and community icons like Ruth Hassell Thompson – and a steady allocation of vaccine doses, my network alone can reach over 1 million high-need, at-risk New Yorkers in a month.
"These are New Yorkers who would never go to a hospital to be vaccinated. But they'll come to see their family doctors. And that's who we are. But we need the doses consistently in order to deliver on that promise. I cannot underscore this enough: doses in our hands means doses in New Yorker's arms. We're grateful for our ongoing collaboration with Governor Cuomo, who recognizes this urgency and the ability of our network to do what we do best: serve the underserved, treat our own neighborhoods, and vaccinate the members of our hardest-hit communities."
"The COVID-19 vaccinations Northwell is administering today at Grace Cathedral International in Uniondale and Prayer Tabernacle Church in Amityville are an important step in our outreach efforts to communities of color that were hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic," said Northwell Health President & CEO Michael Dowling.
"As part of the Health Equity Task Forces that Governor Cuomo has established statewide, Northwell is taking the lead on Long Island, working with leaders of diverse communities on how best to inform and educate residents about the availability, efficacy and safety of the vaccines."