Blizzard halts vaccination efforts across Northeast

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Pedestrians make their way through Times Square during a snowstorm on Feb. 1, 2021, in the Manhattan, New York. | AP Photo/John Minchillo

NEW YORK — A sprawling winter storm crippled Covid-19 vaccination sites across the Northeast on Monday, further complicating an undertaking that’s been marred by repeated delays and delivery problems.

Officials halted distribution efforts from Washington to Maine as the storm marched up the East Coast, where it’s expected to leave as much as 2 feet of snow in some areas. The delays come just as health officials warn new, more easily transmissible strains of the virus could be identified throughout the region.

All Covid-19 vaccine appointments in New York City were canceled Monday and Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy likewise canceled appointments Monday. Governors and mayors were taking similar actions in other states across the mid-Atlantic and New England.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tried to assure residents that the appointments will be quickly rescheduled.

“I know how hard it is to get an appointment,” Cuomo said Monday. “I know people will say ‘I had an appointment finally, is it really going to get rescheduled?’ It’s really going to get rescheduled in any state-run facility. So if you had an appointment, it will be rescheduled at a state-run facility.”

The storm comes at an inopportune time as states beset with supply shortages have been trying to at last gain some momentum in the battle against Covid-19. New Jersey has vaccinated roughly 800,000 people so far. New York City hit a similar number with 815,193 Covid-19 vaccine doses in January — short of the mayor’s 1 million dose goal for the month.

Any time lost is precious as new strains for the virus emerge and cases begin to climb again during the winter months.

State and city leaders promised that the infrastructure is in place to make up for the snow delay, but again sounded alarms on the lack of supply, pressing the federal government to take extraordinary steps to boost vaccine supplies.

“It all comes down to supply, supply, supply,” de Blasio said, demanding pharmaceutical companies manufacture each others’ vaccines in a wartime-like effort to inoculate the American public.

Much of New York was already shut down Monday, with subway service partially suspended, commuter rails in and out of New York on hold and nonessential drivers instructed to stay off roads until the storm abates.

Despite declaring a state of emergency on top of the ongoing pandemic emergency, de Blasio said the vaccination delay would only be temporary.

“With the storm situation, we’re going to be concerned about any disruption, but that should be a very temporary disruption,” he said.

Sam Sutton contributed to this report.

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