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New York opens vaccine eligibility to everyone age 50 and up

March 23, 2021 GMT
Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks at Grace Baptist Church, a new pop-up vaccination site, in Mt. Vernon, N.Y., Monday, March 22, 2021. Cuomo was there to encourage all people to get vaccinated, especially those in underserved communities that were the most effected by the pandemic. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, Pool)
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Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks at Grace Baptist Church, a new pop-up vaccination site, in Mt. Vernon, N.Y., Monday, March 22, 2021. Cuomo was there to encourage all people to get vaccinated, especially those in underserved communities that were the most effected by the pandemic. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, Pool)
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Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks at Grace Baptist Church, a new pop-up vaccination site, in Mt. Vernon, N.Y., Monday, March 22, 2021. Cuomo was there to encourage all people to get vaccinated, especially those in underserved communities that were the most effected by the pandemic. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, Pool)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York is expanding eligibility for the coronavirus vaccine to everyone age 50 and older, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday.

The governor said newly eligible people can start signing up for vaccines starting 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Currently, everyone age 60 and older can get vaccinated, as well as certain essential workers and people with select health conditions that leave them at-risk of serious illness from COVID-19. Cuomo’s latest move means 12.2 million New Yorkers will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccination starting Tuesday, out of over 15 million New Yorkers over the age of 16.

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Cuomo said the state can expand eligibility because of promises from the federal government that vaccine supplies will increase in future weeks. New York was set to receive roughly 700,000 first doses for the seven days ending Sunday, up from nearly 620,000 for the prior week.

“We will have enough vaccine to vaccinate people,” Cuomo said. “We have to make sure we have the capacity and willingness to take the vaccine.”

Local and county officials for weeks have urged the Cuomo administration to ease restrictions on eligibility and who can administer vaccines to help speed up vaccinations. The governor has said low vaccine supplies has held up vaccine distribution early on in New York’s rollout, but he has eased eligibility restrictions in recent weeks.

New York has now provided at least one dose of the vaccine to about one-fourth of its population of 19 million residents. That’s in line with the national average, according to federal data.

State health officials hope that vaccination will lower rates of infection in New York, which has among the highest rates per-capita in the nation. The number of COVID-19 deaths has dropped in recent weeks, though hospitalizations have remained flat at around 4,500 patients over the past seven days.

The governor said he wants to address the lower level of vaccination among minority communities, which can face barriers to healthcare.

“We still have not reached fairness and equity in the number of vaccines,” Cuomo said, later adding: “That discrepancy has to be remedied.”

Black New Yorkers represent 17.3% of New York’s population over the age of 15, while Hispanic or Latinos represent 18%.

But 9.9% of people with at least one dose identified as Black, while 11.9% identified as Hispanic or Latino.

Communities across the state report racial disparities in vaccination: Just 0.7% of people with at least one dose identify as Black in New York’s North Country, even though Black New Yorkers represent 4.7% of the region’s population.

In Long Island, 5.7% of people with at least one dose identify as Black and 8.7% identify as Hispanic or Latino. But Long Island’s population over age 15 is 10.7% Black and 16.9% Hispanic or Latino.