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Gov. Cuomo blames de Blasio, city hospitals for slow COVID-19 vaccine rollout

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday pinned the slow coronavirus vaccine rollout on local leaders including Mayor Bill de Blasio — threatening entities that don’t quickly use their allotted shots will be fined and barred from future shipments.

Speaking during an Albany press briefing, the governor shifted the blame downhill after his own administration faced fierce criticism for a stumbling launch to the inoculation effort that saw significant quantities of the state’s vaccine stockpile remain on ice.

“We need the public officials to manage those public hospitals,” said Cuomo, arguing that distribution points including the Big Apple’s city-run Health and Hospitals system have dropped the ball.

Cuomo underscored the dig with a PowerPoint slide with photos of local leaders — de Blasio prominent among them — with the all-caps stamp “must manage.”

“I need them to take personal responsibility for their hospitals,” he said. “This is a management issue of the hospitals. They have to move the vaccine, and they have to move the vaccine faster.”

To light a fire under slow local distributors, like Health and Hospitals, the state Department of Health on Sunday sent a letter establishing a use-it-or-lose-it proposition, Cuomo said.

Providers must use the supplies they’ve thus far been allocated by week’s end or face fines of up to $100,000, Cuomo said.

And going forward, they must use all vaccines within seven days of receipt or face fines — and being cut off from future shipments of the vaccine.

Public and private hospitals statewide have used only about 46 percent of the coronavirus vaccines they have been provided, according to stats Cuomo cited Monday.

While the New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System has led the way, with about 99 percent of its allotted shots administered, by contrast, the city’s Health and Hospitals network has used just 31 percent.

“I need those public officials to step in and manage those systems,” said Cuomo. “You have the allocation. We want it in people’s arms as soon as possible.”

A pharmacist prepares the COVID-19 vaccine
A pharmacist prepares the COVID-19 vaccine.
Matthew McDermott

State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker, speaking during the same press briefing, said that Health and Hospitals hasn’t even fared well in vaccinating its own employees, despite being provided a bounty of the precious vaccines.

Of the system’s 23,000 employees eligible to receive the vaccine, only 12,000 have been — despite the system being allocated some 38,000 doses, Zucker said.

“Those other 11,000 employees need to get vaccinated,” he said. “There needs to be a sense of urgency there.”

De Blasio, meanwhile, kicked off Monday by doubling down on more wishes and hopes about vaccinations despite a painfully slow first three weeks, vowing to vaccinate a million city residents in January, and saying that it is time for the inoculation effort to break into a “sprint.”

Speaking in a press briefing of his own held prior to Cuomo’s, de Blasio blamed the slow rollout in part on logistical issues and the need to allay public fears about the new vaccine.

“Getting it right in the first few weeks was the trend-setter and that was the thing that was going to give confidence,” he said. “Now it’s time to sprint.”

Hizzoner said that the city aims to administer 100,000 vaccines this week, ramping up to a clip of 400,000 per week by month’s end.

“From this week on, I expect these numbers to increase intensely,” he said, calling for ’round-the-clock distribution centers to help make the million-vaccine dream a reality. “The groundwork is laid, now it’s time to put this into action on a 24/7 basis.”

Constantly churning vaccination centers were among the ideas pitched Sunday by two would-be successors to de Blasio in City Hall, Comptroller Scott Stringer and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

To help reach the goal, de Blasio said that everyone needs to pitch in, including the state.

“To get this done we need help: We need flexibility from the state of New York, we need support from the federal government,” he said. “We need the federal government to simplify the rules and to join us in making things move quicker.

“We need the manufacturers of the vaccine to keep delivering on schedule,” he continued. “There is so much that can be done if everyone acts in partnership.”

He had previously said that tight state restrictions on who can get vaccinated when were to blame for a delay in the NYPD rollout, continuing a trend of the leaders squabbling throughout the pandemic.

A City Hall spokeswoman insisted Monday that the city and its public hospitals are on the right track, and bristled at Cuomo threatening to cut off its vaccine supplies.

“The Mayor has been clear that our public hospitals must show aggressive, forward momentum and get as many vaccines in arms as possible,” said Avery Cohen. “We’ve put a plan in place to help H+H go faster as we wait for the State to allow more people to be vaccinated.

“But threatening to ‘revoke’ the ‘privilege’ of vaccination from the City’s public hospital system is punitive and unnecessary.”

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