ALBANY, N.Y. — New York is expanding eligibility for the coronavirus vaccine to everyone age 50 and older, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday.
The governor said newly eligible people can start signing up for vaccines starting 8 a.m. Tuesday.
Currently, everyone age 60 and older can get vaccinated, as well as certain essential workers and people with select health conditions that leave them at-risk of serious illness from COVID-19.
Cuomo said the state can expand eligibility because of promises from the federal government that vaccine supplies will keep increasing. It's unclear how many people are now eligible for vaccines in New York.
"We will have enough vaccine to vaccinate people," Cuomo said. "We have to make sure we have the capacity and willingness to take the vaccine."
Local and county officials for weeks have urged the Cuomo administration to ease restrictions on eligibility and who can administer vaccines to help speed up vaccinations. The governor has said low vaccine supplies has held up vaccine distribution early on in New York's rollout, but he has eased eligibility restrictions in recent weeks.
New York has now provided at least one dose of the vaccine to about one-fourth of its population of 19 million residents. That's in line with the national average, according to federal data.
The governor said he wants to address the lower level of vaccination among minority communities, which can face barriers to healthcare.
"We still have not reached fairness and equity in the number of vaccines," Cuomo said, later adding: "That discrepancy has to be remedied."
Black New Yorkers represent 17.3% of New York's population over the age of 15, while Hispanic or Latinos represent 18%.
But 9.9% of people with at least one dose identified as Black, while 11.9% identified as Hispanic or Latino.
Communities across the state report racial disparities in vaccination: Just 0.7% of people with at least one dose identify as Black in New York's North Country, even though Black New Yorkers represent 4.7% of the region's population.
In Long Island, 5.7% of people with at least one dose identify as Black and 8.7% identify as Hispanic or Latino. But Long Island's population over age 15 is 10.7% Black and 16.9% Hispanic or Latino.