A group of upstate Democrats is suggesting New York implement a vaccine "preregistration" system to stem a sign-up free-for-all that’s sparked "vaccine pursuit stress" around the state.
By funneling people through a universal credentialing system, they say the state can keep its COVID-19 vaccine prioritization goals, set appointments efficiently and reduce anxiety. It’s a method Florida and other states are using.
A change is needed because the current system is stressing people out, lawmakers said.
"Everyone is getting what I call vaccine pursuit stress," said Assemb. John T. McDonald (D-Cohoes), who also runs an Albany County pharmacy that's been flooded with phone calls. "Everyone is getting very intense, getting upset."
As it stands, millions of New Yorkers are eligible for the vaccine, but the state is getting nearly 300,000 doses per week from the federal government. It’s resulted in a degree of vaccine competition in which people pursue appointments at various venues.
"Seven million people are competing to get one of 265,000 vaccine appointments that will be available next week," McDonald, Assembs. Pat Fahy (D-Albany) and Carrie Woerner (D-Malta) wrote in unveiling their registration proposal. "The probability of getting one of those is scarce; you may have a better chance of winning the lottery than getting a vaccine appointment."
Newsday has written about Long Islanders signing up for appointments as far away as upstate Plattsburgh and Potsdam. Other news organizations have written about computer volunteers trying to help older New Yorkers navigate the complicated system.
The answer is a universal preregistration system where eligibility can be approved and appointments allocated as doses arrive, the lawmakers said.
"Let’s take this time while supply is low and get people preregistered or credentialed, so when supply increases, they’re ready to go," McDonald said.
The form would include a person’s top three or so preferred vaccination sites and all the demographic data the state is trying to collect.
County health departments would go down the priority list, contacting people and scheduling appointments under the Democrats’ plan. The counties would be able to schedule enough people on any given day to make sure no vaccine goes to waste.
"We know it’s possible, because New Jersey, Illinois, California and Florida are all doing just that," McDonald, Fahy and Woerner wrote.
McDonald said many people are trying to make a vaccination appointment at, say, the University of Albany, fail to do so and then quit looking further.
"If we get people preregistered first, it could give them hope that they’re taking a step in the right direction," McDonald said.
The lawmakers have floated the idea to the Cuomo administration. Rich Azzopardi, spokesman for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, said it would be reviewed.