COVID-19: New Rochelle hospital gives illegal vaccines, mayor jumped line

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New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson jumped the line in a bid to get the coronavirus vaccine as early as possible, despite the push to inoculate municipal employees and elected officials being illegal, the New York Post reported Saturday.

Bramson, aged 51, was responding to an offer by the Montefiore New Rochelle Hospital, made last Wednesday.

However, the move to do so was illegal under New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s current criteria, which state that the vaccine is currently exclusively available to health care workers, nursing home residents and staff and certified emergency service responders.

Montefiore had originally planned to make vaccines available for teachers, too, but the planned rollout was canceled after the state Health Department caught wind and started investigating.

Reportedly, the vaccines offered by the hospital were due to the fact that only 23% of the staff were inoculated, the rest having rejected it despite state guidelines insisting that the first round of vaccines go to them first. Giving them out was an effort to prevent the unused doses from going to waste.

According to Bramson, he had received a vaccine to “demonstrate confidence in [its] safety and efficacy,” the New York Post reported. According to local news outlet the Journal News, he also had said hospital officials had told him the state had given them permission to vaccinate city officials and school staff.

However, this was evidently not the case, with the hospital reportedly having “misinterpreted the state guidelines.”

Cuomo harshly criticized the vaccine rate of Montefiore’s staff, and the hospital could now be facing harsh fines and penalties for breaking the guidelines. According to local news outlet the Journal News, the rest of the hospital’s vaccine supply would be given over to the Westchester County Health Department.

However, the incident has sparked further clashes between Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, the latter having been a vocal opponent of the governor’s policy regarding vaccination eligibility due to it being too restrictive and preventing the vaccine from being given to front line workers, police officers and people aged 75 and over.

Speaking to WNYC radio on Friday, de Blasio blasted Cuomo’s insistence on stopping Montefiore from giving out the vaccine to more people as “Punitive… counterproductive [and] stopping the vaccine from actually being used.”

He also criticized the punishment methods Cuomo uses to enforce these policies, which include fines of up $1 million and threatening to revoke medical licenses.

“I mean, talk about arbitrary and capricious,” de Blasio told WNYC radio. “They’ve created a situation that’s creating fear and confusion and where doctors can’t act even when they know someone’s vulnerable.”

On Friday, de Blasio also tweeted that New York City would begin vaccinating city workers and elderly residents on Monday.

But the incident also leaves New Rochelle school staff in uproar as they were denied the vaccine after being promised to get it within the week.

The Westchester County city was the epicenter of the state’s first coronavirus outbreak, and especially hit the city’s Jewish community very hard. Though the crisis has lessened since, parts of the city, including downtown, remain a state-imposed yellow zone.

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