December 11, 2020
Albany, NY

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Provides Vaccine Update and Joins with Congressional Leaders to Call for Fair and Equitable Federal Vaccine Distribution Plan

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Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Provides Vaccine Update and Joins with Congressional Leaders to Call for Fair and Equitable Federal Vaccine Distribution Plan
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New York State Clinical Advisory Task Force Unanimously Approves FDA Decision to Proceed with Vaccine

346,000 Doses of Moderna Vaccine Expected to Arrive in New York Week of December 21

United States Representatives Hakeem Jeffries, Karen Bass, Grace Meng, Joaquin Castro and Deb Haaland Join Governor Cuomo in Calling on Federal Government to Amend its Unfair and Unequitable Vaccine Distribution Plan

Follows Letter from Governor Cuomo and 110 New York Leaders to HHS Secretary Calling for Changes to Federal Vaccine Distribution Plan

Governor Cuomo: "That is the weapon that ends the war. We're going to need a public education campaign to battle skepticism. We have to hit 75 to 85 percent of the population for the vaccine to be effective. We have 50 percent of the population saying they won't take the vaccine. That's a problem. We have to outreach to the Black, brown, poor communities. That's basic social justice. That has been overlooked, I'll speak to that in a moment. And we have to have the most aggressive distribution administration program and we're starting that right now. Good news is, the 170,000 doses from Pfizer that we announced should be here imminently, Sunday or Monday. We also will get through 346,000 doses of Moderna on top of the 170,000 and they'll be here the week of December 21. So, the vaccine is coming and we're ready to administer it."

Cuomo: "Part of the vaccination has to be the fairness of the vaccination process. I believe during COVID many inequities were disclosed, health care disparities were disclosed. That's why the death rate for Blacks is twice what it is for whites; that's why the death rate for Latinos is one- and one-half times what it is for whites. We have to learn from that and correct it when it comes to the vaccine. I don't believe this HHS administration has provided for a fair distribution to Black communities and brown communities and poor communities and rural communities and Native American communities across the state. I think they're basically leaving it to the private sector. They haven't given the states any resources to do anything else. We sent the letter to Secretary Azar who is the political head of HHS, 110 leaders signed on from the state saying that, don't continue the discrimination that we have seen through COVID where Black, brown, and poor communities were left behind with higher death rates and higher infection rates. COVID doesn't discriminate, neither should the United States of America."

Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo provided a COVID-19 vaccine update and announced that the New York State Clinical Advisory Task Force has unanimously approved the FDA's decision to proceed with the vaccine. The Governor also announced that New York State expects to receive 346,000 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine the week of December 21. The doses add to 170,000 already expected from Pfizer. Yesterday, Governor Cuomo and a coalition of groups issued a letter to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar calling for a fair and equitable federal vaccination program. The Governor was joined by Members of the House of Representatives Hakeem Jeffries, Karen Bass, Grace Meng, Joaquin Castro and Deb Haaland to reiterate that call.

VIDEO of the Governor's remarks is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h.264, mp4) format here.

AUDIO of today's remarks is available here.

PHOTOS are available on the Governor's Flickr page.

A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:

Today is day 286. We're going three COVID operations at the same time. Number one, the hospitals, managing hospital capacity and surge and flex as we call it. Number two, trying to slow the spread of the virus. And number three, being as aggressive as we can on vaccinations. We want to be the most efficient, most effective state in the United States in terms of vaccinations. As we said, we would have a New York State panel review the actions and recommendations of the FDA and their advisory committee to give New Yorkers more confidence in the vaccination process. Dr. Zucker met with the New York State panel yesterday, last night, and the New York State clinical advisory task force has approved unanimously the FDA decision to go forward with the vaccine, so that's good news, and we notified the FDA of that. Obviously there was no delay whatsoever in the timing, and New Yorkers will have more confidence.

Last point is the vaccine. That is the weapon that ends the war. We're going to need a public education campaign to battle skepticism. We have to hit 75 to 85 percent of the population for the vaccine to be effective. We have 50 percent of the population saying they won't take the vaccine. That's a problem. We have to outreach to the Black, brown, poor communities. That's basic social justice. That has been overlooked, I'll speak to that in a moment. And we have to have the most aggressive distribution administration program and we're starting that right now. Good news is, the 170,000 doses from Pfizer that we announced should be here imminently, Sunday or Monday. We also will get through 346,000 doses of Moderna on top of the 170,000 and they'll be here the week of December 21. So, the vaccine is coming and we're ready to administer it.

Part of the vaccination has to be the fairness of the vaccination process. I believe during COVID many inequities were disclosed, health care disparities were disclosed. That's why the death rate for Blacks is twice what it is for whites; that's why the death rate for Latinos is one- and one-half times what it is for whites. We have to learn from that and correct it when it comes to the vaccine. I don't believe this HHS administration has provided for a fair distribution to Black communities and brown communities and poor communities and rural communities and Native American communities across the state. I think they're basically leaving it to the private sector. They haven't given the states any resources to do anything else. We sent the letter to Secretary Azar who is the political head of HHS, 110 leaders signed on from the state saying that, don't continue the discrimination that we have seen through COVID where Black, brown, and poor communities were left behind with higher death rates and higher infection rates. COVID doesn't discriminate, neither should the United States of America. We're all anxious to do the vaccine. Let's do the vaccine fairly, let's do it justly, and New York State is going to make sure that it makes that point loud and clear because we're not going to allow this federal administration to proceed with a plan that leaves out certain communities, and the communities that actually need the vaccine most will get it least. That would be the cruelest irony and an added injustice. I believe to leave out those communities is illegal; it is unconstitutional and is discriminatory by effect if not by intent. And I believe this administration knows that. I believe the incoming administration of President Biden will correct it, but we don't want this administration program to start discriminating against people, and we're going to start sending out the vaccine, let's make sure we send it out fairly with the first vaccine. That's our goal.

We're joined by some special guests today. It's a pleasure to have them with us. We have Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, who needs no introduction in this state. Pleasure to be with Congressmember Karen Bass, that's our West Coast champion, Congressmember Grace Meng, pleasure to be with you, who is with the chair of the Asian-Pacific American Caucus and a great New Yorker. Congressman Castro, pleasure to be with you, he is the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and we have Congressmember Deb Haaland from the great state of New Mexico - I was speaking with your Governor yesterday - who is the Co-chair of the Native American Caucus. Thank you all so much for being with us today. I know you're all busy. I know we wish you all success on that package you're working on. State and local, state and local, state and local. Not that we only have one agenda here, I want you to know. Thank you so much to bring for bringing attention to this issue and for pushing it forward in Washington because we want to make sure we correct the injustice and working together we can do just that. Let me turn it over to Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, who's been spearheading this effort and partnering with us. Congressman Jeffries, thank you so much for being here and thank you for helping assemble today.

Rep. Hakeem Jefferies: Good afternoon, Governor and personally, thank you for your tremendous leadership here in New York State throughout this pandemic and of course in your capacity as the chair of the National Governors Association, for all that you've done to address these important issues on the public health side and economic side throughout the nation. It's great to be joined by an all-star lineup of my colleagues, in government in the House. Really a Congressional dream team. And they have done so much for the Caucus, the Congress, and the country. Only Andrew Cuomo could assemble such a great team outside of the halls of Congress.

And so, this is a critical issue for us. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a lot of pain, and suffering, and death to the American people, disproportionately communities of color, immigrant communities, low-income communities, and throughout Indian country. That is [inaudible], unconscionable, un-American in a country that promises life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to everyone, regardless of race, regardless of ethnicity, regardless of region, regardless of zip code.

And so we have to continue to press the case together to make sure that as the vaccines become available that they are disseminated in equitable, efficient, and effective fashion to everyone, but let the dissemination be driven by the data and the need, and we know that that in fact is going to be in communities of color and immigrant communities, and throughout Indian country.

So I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues, to make sure that the resources are provided here in New York state and throughout the country, to make sure that this can be done. It's going to take about $8 billion to do it. The government under this Administration has only provided states with about $200 million. That is barely a drop in the bucket, and we're going to work on this issue together.

So thank you to my colleagues, and thank you Governor Cuomo.

Governor Cuomo: Thank you Congressman, thank you so much. Thank you for organizing your colleagues, I know they're very busy, and you're right they are the Dream Team. I've never seen them on one screen together like that, and I'm glad to have them here in New York.

Let's go to Congresswoman Karen Bass who's the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and she is just a superstar for all of us, and she's fighting the good fight and she's winning. So great to be with you, a pleasure. Thank you.

Rep. Karen Bass: Thank you so much, Governor, and let me just join in to thank you for your tremendous leadership. I certainly haven't had the chance to speak with you, but the way you handled New York state, and educated the entire nation at the beginning of the pandemic was just stellar leadership, and we are all very grateful to you for that.

As we all know, the way COVID has impacted communities of color has been devastating. And one of the that's the most devastating is that we really don't know all of the impact because this Administration has [inaudible] compiled the data to disseminate the data, but we do know given the underlying health conditions that our communities suffer from, that we know we are dying in certain locations [inaudible] in extreme discrepancies.

And one of [inaudible] in addition, and before, the dissemination of the vaccine is really massive public education to get people to understand the virus because there has been so much [inaudible] information put out, so that people are comfortable taking the vaccine.

And so, I am behind you 100 percent and all of my colleagues that are here, [inaudible] frankly until January 20th, until we actually have national leadership that understands that there needs to be a national centralized strategy, we are going to have to fend for ourselves. And one of the things in that national strategy has to be focus concentrated in communities of color. And so we need to do everything we can to make sure we have state and local funding, and to make sure that we have all of the money that is needed for vaccine distribution, and we need to think of our frontline workers as being first and foremost in that line.

So thank you very much for inviting me here today, for your ongoing leadership.

Governor Cuomo: Thank you, thank you so much Congressmember, thank you. And keep up the good fight. We're going to get there together. We have New York's own Congressmember, Grace Meng, who is also the Chair of the Asian Pacific American caucus. So good to be with you Grace, thank you.

Rep. Grace Meng: Thank you Governor Cuomo, it's great to be here with you [inaudible] here in New York and across the country. Your efforts have been such a model for other states, and I commend and thank you for all your tireless work to help Americans combat this pandemic. I think during this past year of uncertainty and lack of sometimes accurate information nationally, I can speak for many of my colleagues and their constituents that your updates daily and weekly have provided a very important and reliable source of information in helping us to save lives.

Thank you always to my good friend and our Caucus chair, Hakeem Jeffries, for his tremendous vision and steady leadership that you have provided during this pandemic, and that you have brought to our Caucus.

It's always exciting to be here with this Dream Team. Chairwoman Karen Bass, one of my favorites in Congress, if I can say that, Chairman Joaquin Castro, and our superstar Deb Haaland. It's always an honor to be with you and I appreciate all of you.

As you may know my Congressional district is actually in Queens, New York, and we were at one point a few months ago one of the epicenters of this pandemic. Elmhurst hospital, which was one of the hardest hit hospitals in this country, is in my district and the facility was at the heart of this epicenter.

And the impact COVID-19 has had on our communities of color, and particularly Asian, Black, and Latino, Native Americans throughout this country, has been really troubling. Asian Americans were impacted early on, not just by the virus of the coronavirus but by the virus of discrimination and hatred. And I stood with this exact group of leaders nationally as they stood shoulder to shoulder with the AAPI community to condemn discrimination against Asian Americans.

The CDC said that Asian-Americans' rate of hospitalization and death is almost one and a half times more than whites, and so we've seen that this pandemic exacerbated already existing vulnerabilities, inequities, disparities, particularly in access to healthcare and including language barriers, financial obstacles, etc. We must work together as our Governor said to ensure that immigrant and minority communities have equal access to the COVID-19 vaccine, that there is a fair, effective, and equitable distribution, that communities of color know when and how to get this vaccine, and there must be engagement and outreach with local grassroots groups, faith-based organizations, and nonprofits to assist with getting this information out. One of the things that I was concerned about and I was proud to partner with [inaudible] last week and he really led the charge in working with the Health and Human Services and the CDC Director to ensure that information, private and personal information that identifies recipients of the vaccine, would not be shared unnecessarily with other agencies in the federal government. I'm proud to announce, as you already know actually, that Governor Cuomo was successful in ensuring this result here in New York, but we must continue to work with the CDC and the Health Department to ensure that every other state achieves the same solution and protection. So, finally there must be adequate federal funding to implement this vaccine distribution. States cannot do this alone. The federal government must be there to support the distribution efforts of states. I have continuously urged with my colleagues Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to pass much needed coronavirus [inaudible] repeatedly. We know that Governor Cuomo and his team are working non-stop to ensure access to the vaccine for every New Yorker and to knock down barriers that have allowed disparities to exist in the past. We commend him, stand with him and continue to be partners with him as we continue to save lives here in New York and throughout the country. Thank you, Governor.

Governor Cuomo: Thank you. Thank you very much, Congressmember, and thank you for all the help. You're exactly right on stopping the HHS policy which would have identified undocumented people before they got a vaccination and I think would have been a real exclusion frankly of the undocumented community. And we raised that issue and with the help of this dream team, HHS actually changed their position and the state can now do the vaccination of the undocumented community without identifying them so that's a big step forward and I think they're going to hear us on this issue also.

Let me turn it over to Congressmember Castro. Pleasure to be with you again and the Chair of the Hispanic Caucus — thank you very much for joining us and thank you for your good work on all of these issues. Congressmember.

Rep. Joaquin Castro: Well, thank you Governor Cuomo and thank you to [inaudible] My connection is a little choppy, so I apologize if I'm breaking up a bit, but I want to say thank you for being a [inaudible] thank you for your efforts particularly in the early days of COVID-19, your press conferences were reassuring [inaudible]. As it's been said, we need to make sure that [inaudible] for the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine [inaudible], especially to the most vulnerable Americans. I think it's safe to say that every American has been impacted in a way by COVID-19. In some communities, it's been especially devastating [inaudible] New York State. When this pandemic started, it was clear that Latino [inaudible]. They comprised a great share of the essential workers and they've been especially hit hard by COVID-19: higher rate of infection, higher hospitalization and higher rate of death. And at the same time, we know, when it comes to things like [inaudible] getting information out to the communities, [inaudible] and so it's going to be imperative on all of us, the federal government [inaudible] to make sure we do everything possible and send money to states to get that vaccine to all of our communities, so as we think about [inaudible] making sure that we're getting it to not only front-line heath care workers, but also to [inaudible] essential workers like teachers and the grocery store workers, meatpacking [inaudible]. Some of these folks who were literally in danger, and some of them endangering their lives to make sure our country [inaudible]. So thank you for bringing us together today and thank you [inaudible].

Governor Cuomo: Thank you. Thank you, Congressmember, and thank you for your leadership and don't worry about the presentation being a little choppy. I'm always a little choppy and it has nothing to do with the technology. It's my presentation, so thank you very much.

Let's go to Representative Haaland. It's a pleasure to be with you — Co-Chair of the Native American Caucus. I was former HUD Secretary and as Congressman Castro knows from his family, I spent a lot of time working with the Native American community and their needs are desperate and they've been made more desperate from COVID. So, thank you very much for being with us.

Rep. Deb Haaland: Thank you so much Governor Cuomo. Thank you for your tremendous leadership and your allyship. It's always a pleasure to stand in solidarity with our Chairman Hakeem Jeffries and with the Tri-Caucus leaders fighting for equity for our communities of color. There's a simple truth: the federal government has failed to honor its promises to Native Americans for generations. There are places in Indian country where there isn't running water. How can we expect folks to follow hand-washing guidance without water? There's not broadband internet to ensure access to telehealth and for kids doing their homework virtually — and in some places, there's no electricity. Over the course of this pandemic, history repeats itself and the spotlight has been put on the disparities that have existed for far too long. The virus has ravaged our communities and the Trump administration has once again failed to provide the resources needed to protect the health of Indian country. For example, the Navajo Nation had infection rates higher than in any state. In New Mexico, Native Americans are 11 percent of the populations, but have been up to half of the state's COVID-19 cases. And like my colleagues have discussed here today, American Indians [inaudible] suffered disproportionately from health conditions that exacerbate COVID-19. The federal response to COVID-19 in Indian country is unacceptable. Far too many people have died and the White House has gone out of its way to fight against providing direct aid to native nations. And now vaccines are here, but again a comprehensive plan that will serve all people is missing. We have the opportunity to correct a history of [inaudible] of the federal government toward Native Americans. [inaudible] robust information and education of the vaccine to increase confidence, resources to make up for gaps that existed for generations, and the flexibility to develop their own distribution plan. Thank you again, governor, for having me and having us, and I'm very proud to be here today.

Governor Cuomo: Thank you very much. Thank you very much, all of you. and look, I believe that we will get changes to this vaccination program. I think it's important that we articulate it and we design it. If the Trump Administration doesn't make the changes necessary, I believe that it is illegal, and we'll pursue that course, because we don't want to get off to a bad start, and it shouldn't be that newly-elected President Joe Biden is going to have to correct a mistake so early. So we'll do it right and then we'll focus on the disparities that we learned through this COVID situation. And the healthcare deserts, and all the inequities that existed in the first place that manifested through COVID. And the agenda will be to make sure not only COIVD never happens again, but we answer those inequalities once fand for all. God bless you, thank you so much for taking the time to do this. Congressman Jeffries, thank you so much for organizing today. and to all of you on a personal level, I miss you, I can't wait until we're together again in person, and God bless you for the fight you're fighting. Keep going.

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