New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo threatened to sue the Trump administration if it excludes the Democratically led state from the federal COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan.
“We will fight to make sure every life is protected equally, because enough people have died and enough injustice has been done during COVID,” Cuomo said Sunday. “It stops now. It stops with this vaccine.”
President Donald Trump on Friday announced an update to the federal government’s plan to produce and deliver some 300 million doses of a safe vaccine, stating that the medicine could be available as soon as April for the general public, “with the exception of places like New York State.”
The president blamed Cuomo and “political reasons” for why one of the nation’s most populous states at more than 19 million people would not be among the locations where the vaccine would be available.
“He doesn’t trust where the vaccine is coming from,” Trump said. “So, we won’t be delivering it to New York until we have authorization to do so, and that pains me to say that.”
Trump and Cuomo have feuded over their responses to the pandemic, with the New York State governor accusing the president of being directed by partisanship and questioning whether his administration’s development of a vaccine had been politicized.
In September, Cuomo said he doesn’t trust the Trump administration concerning the safety of a potential vaccine, and launched the state’s own board to review the candidate drug “so I can look at the camera and I can say to New Yorkers that it’s safe to take.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James on Friday responded to Trump that the state was ready to sue his administration, deriding the president’s remarks as “nothing more than vindictive behavior by a lame-duck president trying to exact vengeance on those who oppose his politics.”
On Sunday at the Riverside Church in Manhattan, Cuomo said that access to a vaccine is a fundamental right and that communities of color, which have been disproportionally affected by COVID-19, “cannot be last on the list of who receives the vaccine.”
“Any plan that intentionally burdens communities of color to hinder access to the vaccine deprives those communities of equal protection under the law and equal protection is enshrined in the Constitution of these United States,” he said. “I tell you today, if the Trump administration does not change this plan and does not provide an equitable vaccine process, we will enforce our legal rights, we will bring legal action to protect New Yorkers.”
Cuomo also criticized Trump’s plan to have the private market distribute the vaccine, saying community and grass-roots groups need to be enlisted to make sure minority, poor and underserved communities receive the vaccine and that they will mobilize “an army” to vaccine all in the state.
“President Trump must learn the lesson: Stop the abuse. Stop the division. Stop the anger. Stop the hatred. Stop the narcissism and spend your last months actually trying to help people and repairing the damage you have done,” Cuomo said. “Who gets the vaccine and who doesn’t get the vaccine is not just a question of morality and principle, it’s a legal question.”
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