New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Sunday threatened to sue the Trump administration if it does not change its coronavirus vaccine distribution plan to allow for more equitable delivery among “black and brown communities” hardest-hit by the virus.
“The Trump administration is designing the distribution plan, and their plan basically has private health care companies administer the vaccines,” Cuomo said in a speech at Manhattan’s Riverside Church. “The president talks about CVS and Walgreens and national chains. Sure. But they are mainly located in rich communities, not in poor communities.”
He continued: “My friends, we cannot compound the racial injustice that COVID has already created. And let me be clear — the black and brown communities that were first on the list of who died cannot be last on the list of who receives the vaccines, period.”
The governor claimed the inequities in the plan are made worse by a lack of federal aid to aid states in increasing their efforts. New York will join the NAACP and the Urban League in a lawsuit if the administration does not work to address the problems, Cuomo said.
“I’ve tried to work with the Trump administration and argue morality and principle for four years. You’re better off trying to argue with a rock. But it’s not just about morality,” Cuomo said. “There can be no more fundamental right in this moment than access to 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 added: “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 … and we will fight to make sure very life is protected equally, because enough people have died and enough injustice has been done during COVID. It stops now, it stops with this vaccine.”
The coronavirus has killed more than 33,000 people in New York, more than in any other state since the start of the pandemic.
Cuomo’s comments are the latest sign of the fractured relationship between the New York Democrat and the White House over the virus. The governor said last week news that Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine could be ready by year’s end is partially “bad news” because it comes before Trump leaves office. He has also said in recent months that vaccines may be rushed by the federal government without proper safety vetting, so he has created a New York State task force in September that would look to review any FDA decisions before a vaccine is distributed in New York.
President Trump shot back at Cuomo on Friday, saying, “Cuomo will have to let us know when he’s ready for it, otherwise we can’t be delivering it to a state that won’t be giving it to its people, immediately. And I know the people in New York very well, I know they want it. So the governor will let us know when he’s ready.”
“I hope he doesn’t handle this as badly as he’s handled the nursing homes. But we’re ready to provide it as soon as they let us know that they’ll actually use it,” Trump said during an event at the White House.