N.Y. launches Public Health Corps to speed up vaccine rollout

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) delivered his State of the State address virtually from The War Room at the state Capitol, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, Pool)

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UPDATED 12:52 PM PT – Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) is changing course after facing mounting criticism over his handling of vaccine rollout in the state.

During a press briefing on Monday, Cuomo announced the launch of a Public Health Corps, which is expected to bring in thousands to help administer vaccines in the Empire State.

“I’m signing an executive order that is going to make additional staff eligible to do vaccinations, this new network will have more people who they can hire,” explained the governor. “In addition to the thousands of distributors we’re bringing online, DOH is going to set up mass distribution sites over the next several weeks.”

After Cuomo expanded vaccine eligibility to essential workers and those over the age of 75, nearly 500 pharmacies across the state started accepting appointments for New Yorkers on Monday.

The governor received backlash last week, most notably from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, for restricting the vaccine to healthcare workers only. Cuomo’s attempts to prioritize medical personnel led to vaccines sitting in freezers unused as nearly 30 percent of healthcare workers in the state opted out of the vaccine.

During the press briefing, Cuomo said it could take months to vaccinate groups 1a and 1b.

“Fourteen weeks, that’s April 16, before we get through 1a and 1b, which is just the healthcare workers, the public employees, high risk and 75 plus,” explained the governor.

While the federal government has distributed 13 million vaccines across the country, on Saturday the CDC said that only 4 million of those have been administered.

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