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Cuomo admits state's vaccine sign-up system is overwhelmed

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
Vaccinations at the Oncenter War Memorial.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday addressed major problems plaguing the state’s vaccine sign-up website, saying there are vastly more New Yorkers eligible to be vaccinated than there are vaccines.

Thousands of frustrated New Yorkers spent hours trying to sign up at the state health department website, which repeatedly crashed or shut people out before they could complete sign-up forms. Others spent hours fruitlessly on hold on a state hotline before being disconnected.

Some did get through, though, and all state facilities offering vaccines are now booked through April.

Cuomo blamed the federal government for expanding eligibility too soon. He said the state was already struggling to arrange appointments for essential health care workers and those over age 75, when the directive came from the Centers for Disease Control on Tuesday to expand access to those 65 and older.

He said 7 million New Yorkers, or about half the state’s adult population, are now eligible, but New York is receiving about 300,000 doses per week.

“And that entire flood has to go through a syringe,” said Cuomo. 

Cuomo said last week, the state received just 250,000 doses of vaccine. He said at the current rate, it will take six months to get the 7 million vaccinated.

The CDC also recommends that people who are immunocompromised or who have underlying conditions that could make them much sicker or at higher risk of death from the virus should also be eligible for vaccines. Cuomo said the state is still seeking guidance about which conditions should be included, but he said that could potentially add 5 million more people to the already overwhelmed system.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.