People living with HIV in the state of New York will be part of the next group that becomes eligible for receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. The decision was announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) on February 5, just a few days after advocates sent a letter to him urging him to prioritize LGBTQ people and people living with HIV.
People living with HIV become eligible along with many other people in an “immunocompromised state” by having underlying health conditions on February 15, and can begin booking appointments with state-operated vaccine providers as soon as Valentine’s Day, February 14.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a study that explained why sexual minorities are more at risk if they contract COVID-19. Part of that is because sexual minorities are more likely to have an underlying condition, such as HIV, their research found.
On the same day that the CDC reported those findings, the state of New York announced it was officially including people with HIV.
On January 26, a letter was written by advocates to Gov. Cuomo asking to prioritize people living with HIV in the next round of vaccine eligibility.
Now those advocates are glad that their message got through.
“We commend Governor Cuomo and express deep appreciation to the NYSDOH AIDS Institute’s leadership for their expedited research that led to action in New York State by including people living with HIV in expedited vaccine access. This is yet another example of New York’s leadership in ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic while also addressing a pandemic,” Doug Wirth, CEO of the health nonprofit Amida Care, said in a statement.
Cuomo acknowledged that this adds to the already growing number of people in New York trying to get vaccinated. “Ten million New Yorkers are chasing 300,000 vaccines every week,” he said at a briefing after the announcement. “That’s what’s happening, so yes, expect the portals to open, expect the appointments to be booked very quickly, and this will be an ongoing tension until the supply is greatly increased and dramatically increased.”
Approximately seven million people are already eligible in the state, according to the New York Daily News. That includes health care workers, essential workers and first responders, and anyone 65-years-old and older.
While the state estimates approximately 75 percent of health care workers have been inoculated, there are still millions more waiting for their opportunity, and Black and Hispanic New Yorkers are experiencing much harder times trying to get in line.
Cuomo expressed that he believes this is the right first step to acknowledging that inequity.
“We’re committed to vaccinating vulnerable populations that have suffered the most as we distribute a strictly limited supply of vaccines, and people with comorbidities are 94 percent of the state’s COVID deaths,” he stated. “That’s why we’ll open eligibility to people with comorbidities starting February 15 and give hospitals the ability to use extra doses they have to address that population. Local governments have a week to prepare for the new change— they need to get ready now.”
He added, “New Yorkers with comorbidities and underlying conditions exist throughout the state’s population—they’re our teachers, lawyers and carpenters, in addition to the doctors who keep us safe every day, and they are a highly affected population.”
Others included in the expanded eligibilities are people with cancer or a 9/11-related illness, kidney disease, intellectual and developmental disorders, severe obesity, or those who are pregnant.