Cuomo expands vaccine eligibility to seniors after pleas from de Blasio

Vaccinations have so far been limited to a few groups, including health care workers.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that the Empire State would begin expanding eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine to seniors starting next week -- hours after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio pleaded for Cuomo to loosen regulations.

So far, vaccinations have been limited only to a few groups, including health care workers -- known as group 1a. Cuomo has justified the policy by arguing that if those workers got sick they could be super spreaders or could limit hospital capacity if they stayed home while sick.

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He said the aim was to get to 70 or 80 percent of workers vaccinated, but so far only 23 percent have received the shot.

But Cuomo has faced intense criticism from those who note that seniors are the most likely to die from the disease and have called for seniors to be made eligible as soon as possible.

"We’ve got literally twice as many New Yorkers over 75 as the amount of vaccine we have in stock right this minute and yet we are not allowed by state law to give a single shot to a single New Yorker over 75," Mayor de Blasio said earlier Friday. "There is no reason to hold us back, there is no reason to stop the right to vaccinate."

De Blasio said that the city had 270,000 doses that could be given to more than half a million New Yorkers who are over 75.

"This is really dangerous if we don't vaccinate the people who are in the most danger, we are going to lose lives we don’t need to lose," he said.

The mayor said his frustration was shared by other New Yorkers.

"I’m hearing tremendous frustration and anger from folks who want to get vaccinated and are being told by the state of New York that they are not allowed to be vaccinated," he said.

Shortly after those remarks, Cuomo announced that, with increased supply and more distribution points, New York State would start scheduling vaccines for people in group 1b, which includes seniors, starting on Monday.

He said that those in 1a would still be prioritized. The announcement caps a tense few days between the leaders, who have sparred over the priority for vaccination

Cuomo has pushed back against the criticism from de Blasio, suggesting New York City is not making sense with its numbers.

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"New York City, you have vaccinated 14 percent. How can you say you hit the refusal rate which you say is 30 percent?" he said this week. "That’s a long way from 14 to 70, and again, we don’t have enough vaccine. We’re only at 900,000 doses against 2 million health care workers, so anyone who hits the refusal rate tell us, and we’ll reallocate."

Meanwhile, he has lashed out at individual hospitals and threatened to fine them if they don’t move the vaccine quickly enough.

"The hospitals are doing the administration, and that was purposeful," Cuomo said. "This is a management issue of the hospitals. They have to move the vaccine and they have to move the vaccine faster."

On Friday he doubled down, saying that there was a "range of competence" among hospitals.

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Meanwhile, de Blasio welcomed the news, and said the Big Apple would get to work.

"New York City has heard enough. We will begin administering shots to City Workers and the elderly in 1B starting on Monday," he tweeted

Fox News' Brittany De Lea, Audrey Conklin and Tyler Olson contributed to this report.