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Citing Cuomo, Trump says vaccine won't be sent to NY

Credit USACE Europe District / via Flickr

President Donald Trump said Friday that the federal government will delay delivery of a COVID-19 vaccine to New York state because of critical comments made by Gov. Andrew Cuomo about the federal plan for distributing that inoculation.

Trump said the federal government will wait to send the vaccine to New York until Cuomo says the state “is ready for it,” and criticized Cuomo’s attacks on the federal distribution plan.

“The vaccine will be available to the entire general population with the exception of paces like New York state where, for political reasons, the governor decided to say … he wants to take his time with a vaccine because he doesn’t trust where the vaccine’s coming from,” Trump said.

Cuomo took to the airwaves immediately following Trump’s comments to respond, saying the president misrepresented what he’s said about the state’s plans for the vaccine.

“None of what he said is true. Surprise, surprise,” Cuomo said. "As soon as Trump delivers me a dose, I will be ready to administer it. Period. As soon as it's ready for New York I will be ready to administer it.”

Cuomo has formed a special task force to briefly review the vaccine before its distribution to the public in New York. That’s to boost public confidence in the inoculation, which some have viewed as politicized during the final days of this year’s election, he said.

“It’s a way to build confidence in people,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo has been critical of the Trump administration’s plan for distributing a vaccine because of where the inoculation would be available. The federal plan largely relies on private pharmacies and hospitals for distribution. That would leave some people out, Cuomo has claimed.

In particular, Cuomo has been worried about communities of color having less access to a COVID-19 vaccine because those neighborhoods, he said, generally have fewer private pharmacies and hospitals than other areas.

Cuomo said earlier this week that he’s spoken with other governors around the country in an effort to put pressure on the Trump administration to provide more flexibility in the vaccine distribution plan. So far, the federal government has not agreed to any changes.

Trump put the ball in Cuomo’s court Friday, saying the federal government would wait until Cuomo asks for the vaccine, rather than sending it immediately when it’s approved, assuming it's authorized while he's still in office.

“He doesn’t trust the fact that it’s this White House, this administration, so we won’t be delivering it to New York until we have authorization to do so,” Trump said. “Gov. Cuomo will have to let us know when he’s ready for it.”

“We can’t be delivering it to a state that won’t be delivering it to its people immediately.”

The Trump administration has also been quick to point out, in recent weeks, that Cuomo missed more than a dozen conference calls with the White House about its response to the coronavirus, including its plans for a vaccine. Cuomo also declined a one-on-one meeting with senior administration officials last month, according to a memo obtained from the White House.

It’s unclear when a vaccine will be approved by the FDA, but it’s possible that it could get the green light in the next few weeks. Pharmaceutical company Pfizer announced this week that its vaccine had an effective rate of higher than 90% in the latest trials.

New York Attorney General Letitia James, the state’s top lawyer, released a statement Friday evening saying the state was prepared to file a lawsuit against the Trump administration if the federal government withholds a vaccine from people in New York.

“This is nothing more than vindictive behavior by a lame-duck president trying to extract vengeance on those who oppose his politics,” James said. “If dissemination of the vaccine takes place in the twilight of a Trump Administration and the president wants to play games with people’s lives, we will sue and we will win.”

Dan Clark is the host and producer of New York NOW, a weekly television show focusing on state government produced by WMHT in Albany. Clark has been reporting on New York state government and politics for the last six years, during which time he's worked out of the state Capitol in Albany. Clark reported for the national political fact-checking publication PolitiFact, the Buffalo News, the statewide political television show Capital Tonight, and most recently the New York Law Journal. At the New York Law Journal, Clark has focused on state legal challenges to President Donald Trump, as well as litigation concerning laws enacted by the New York State Legislature. Clark covered the Legislature in each role he's held and is a familiar face to state lawmakers and staff. Clark is a native of Afton, NY in Chenango County. He's lived in Albany with his husband since 2011.