Oswego Hospital tops in state at COVID vax distribution

Oswego Hospital, seen above, has distributed 99 percent of its allotted COVID-19 vaccine, tying it for tops in the state according to state data released Monday.

ALBANY — In an effort to speed up what has been a sluggish rollout of the coronavirus vaccine, Gov. Andrew Cuomo threatened Monday to fine hospitals up to $100,000 if they don't finish their first round of inoculations by the end of the week.

Oswego Hospital doesn’t need to worry, however: on Monday, state records showed the facility was keeping pace with vaccine distribution at 99 percent — good enough for best in New York state.

“I am very proud of our staff for setting up our vaccination clinic quickly and efficiently and am thankful for the response we have had allowing us to nearly completely utilize the vaccine allocated to us,” said Dr. Duane Tull, Oswego Health’s Chief Medical Officer.

Cuomo said hospitals have been receiving vaccines over the past three weeks as part of a program prioritizing frontline medical workers, but have only administered the first dose of 46 percent of their allocated vaccines.

That amounts to roughly 300,000 out of roughly 650,000 allocated doses so far, he said.

The Democrat blamed bureaucracy as the chief reason for delays, at public hospitals in particular.

"This is a management issue," Cuomo said in a Monday teleconference call with reporters. "They have to move the vaccine and they have to move the vaccine faster."

The governor also threatened to stop sending the vaccine to hospitals that don't use their share promptly.

Nationwide, the vaccine roll-out has been stymied by  logistical hurdles, confusion over who can get a shot and hospitals and local health officials facing surging cases in a holiday season.

Hospitalizations in New York have doubled since early December to 8,251 as of Sunday. The state is averaging 13,687 daily new cases over the past seven days, up 27% from a week ago.

Cuomo said he's spoken to leaders of dozens of hospitals and that New York's delay isn't due to refrigeration and storage issues or hospitals trying to limit vaccines only to eligible and willing healthcare workers. He said hospitals going forward must use all vaccine shipments within seven day of receiving them.

 "This is a matter of life and death, so yes I'm impatient," said Cuomo, who's also threatened heavy fines for healthcare providers fraudulently  receiving or administering vaccines.

Several hospitals in the state have administered fewer than 30% of their allocated vaccines, according to Cuomo. That's compared to 99% of allocated vaccines administered at New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System and 62% at Northwell Health — the largest hospital system in New York.

Brian Conway, spokesman at the Greater New York Hospital Association, which represents more than 160 hospitals and health systems, said the hospitals are trying to administer the vaccine as "quickly and safely as possible."

"There will always be bumps in a plan this huge and complex, but we're working through them in real time and keeping the rollout on track," Conway said.

New York City will set up 250 city-run COVID-19 vaccination sites this month and expand the hours that vaccines will be provided in a push to administer 1 million vaccine doses by Jan. 31, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday.

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