Pharmacies cancel COVID-19 vaccines for essential workers

Jennifer Lewke
Updated: January 18, 2021 05:09 PM
Created: January 18, 2021 04:42 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Pharmacies are canceling appointments for COVID-19 vaccines not because of limited supply but because of who signed up for them. New Yorkers who are over the age of 65 and essential workers are eligible for the vaccine but the state is now picking and choosing who can get the shot where.

On Friday, the New York State Department of Health sent guidance to pharmacies saying they are no longer to administer the vaccine to essential workers and are to focus exclusively on the older population.

County health departments have been directed to prioritize essential workers, the problem with that is many counties are getting very small supplies of the vaccine and are booking out well into April at this point.  

Sandy Thorp is a special education teacher who does in-person learning with her students four days per week. When she became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, she got right online to schedule an appointment.

“The Dome Arena website had crashed, so I jumped on another link and I was able to schedule an appointment for myself very easily,” she recalls.

With her confirmation email came a huge sense of relief, until Sunday.

“Yesterday morning I got a phone call from Rite Aid telling me that they had to cancel my appointment… She said they have been directed by Governor Cuomo to only give shots at the pharmacy to people 65 and older. I went from feeling very ecstatic to now I have nothing,” she told News10NBC.  

While Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been saying for the last few weeks he prefers pharmacies focus on the elderly on Friday, he went a step further sending a directive that reads, “Retail pharmacies or physician network or practice groups, after vaccinating their own patient-facing staff, should only vaccinate persons aged 65 years or older. Local Health Departments must prioritize the essential worker population in 1B.”

Thorp says if that’s a policy the Governor wants to enact moving forward, fine but she didn’t break any rules booking her appointment when she did and now she’s been put to the back of the line.

“I can't find anything. I have several people looking on my behalf, cause we all look in different places at different times, nobody can find anything,” she said. 

News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke reached out to Gov. Cuomo’s press office for a comment, she did not hear back.

On Monday, Monroe County Executive Adam Bello said the county will only be getting 1,500 doses this week which is only enough to fulfill previously scheduled appointments of essential workers. At this time, it is not in a position to offer additional appointments until more vaccine becomes available.


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