Health care experts, scientists and state officials will vet all federally authorized Covid-19 vaccines to ensure they are safe — and not used as political tools — before being administered and will supervise distribution throughout New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.
The governor, who has repeatedly criticized the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, said he’s formed an independent Clinical Advisory Task Force to review every Covid-19 vaccine authorized by the federal government and counsel the state on their safety and effectiveness in fighting the virus.
He also announced a Vaccine Distribution and Implementation Task Force — also composed of public health, immunization and government operations experts — to design a plan for how New York will distribute and administer vetted Covid-19 vaccines.
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont announced earlier this week that his administration will also form a task force to prepare for distribution of vaccines in his state.
Cuomo said he formed the commissions because he’s “not going to trust the federal government’s opinion” on coronavirus vaccines, particularly given the recent disputes between the White House and the Food and Drug Administration.
President Donald Trump has asserted that a vaccine could be ready before Election Day, despite pushback from senior health officials who’ve said such a timeline is unlikely. He’s also suggested that the White House may not approve tougher FDA guidelines for authorizing the emergency use of any coronavirus vaccines.
“The way the federal government has handled the vaccine, there are now serious questions about whether or not the vaccine is become politicized,” Cuomo told reporters at a morning news conference. “There’s been tremendous reporting on that, and the people of this country don’t trust this federal government with this vaccine process. … Between the president and the FDA, only one entity has engaged in the political process and is heading for Election Day. It’s not the FDA.”
The Vaccine Distribution and Implementation Task Force will specifically look at: vaccine prioritization based on clinical guidance; distribution network capacity; qualified professionals to administer immunizations; supply procurement, data infrastructure and public education efforts.
State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, Budget Director Robert Mujica and SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras, who have helped lead the state’s Covid-19 response, are among those appointed to the 16-member Vaccine Distribution and Implementation Task Force.
Other members include: Greater New York Hospital Association President Kenneth Raske, Northwell Health President and CEO Michael Dowling; Healthcare Association of New York State President Bea Grause; and 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East President George Gresham.
Cuomo said panel should ensure that New York has the best vaccination program in the nation.
“I think the way we have handled Covid has been a model for this country. I want New Yorkers to do the same thing with vaccines,” he said. “We should be the model vaccination program in the country. I also think there’s a tremendous advantage for any state that could be the first Covid-free state.”
The governor’s announcement comes just one month after he said his administration would reviewing if DOH would have the authority to overrule FDA approval of a Covid-19 vaccine that’s not fully vetted. He later doubled down on that assertion, saying New York would not endorse a federally backed Covid-19 vaccine until it was reviewed by state health officials.
FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said Wednesday that the agency “will not authorize or approve a vaccine we won’t be confident in giving to our families.”
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