'Unacceptable': Elected leaders dropped ball on vaccine rollout in Tri-State, critic says

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations has been rocky and confusing across the New York area and large swaths of the country, and now, one former federal health official says we're at least a month behind where we should be.

"Unacceptable," former FDA Associate Commissioner Peter Pitts said. "The baton was dropped, and we need to pick it up and get going."

Operation Warp Speed worked when it came to developing the vaccines, but getting them into people's arms has been anything but fast.

In New York City, only about 23,000 people have received both doses as of Tuesday afternoon.

Now, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced those 65 and over are eligible to receive the vaccine ahead of schedule, causing even greater demand.

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He has warned hospitals they could receive up to $100,000 in fines if the vaccines aren't distributed in a timely manner, and even with the slow rollout, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio still setting a big goal of 1 million vaccinated by the end of January.

Pitts blasted the goal.

"Mayor de Blasio saying he wants a million new Yorkers vaccinated is pure fantasy," he said. "It's a made up number."

The city receives about 100,000 doses of the vaccine each week, and 7 On your Side Investigates went through CDC records that show the city has received about 598,000 doses of the vaccine so far.

It's expected to get close to 220,000 more by the end of the month, but that still doesn't get the city to its 1 million vaccination goal.

The city has opened up new 24 hour mega vaccine sites that will help vaccinate more people, but both the mayor and governor said the state needs more doses.

"We can't increase the vaccine supply, we don't control the vaccine supply," Cuomo said during a recent press conference. "It's all done federally, and then we get a proportionate amount."

Both Pfizer and Moderna on Tuesday said they're increasing production to bring more vaccine shipments to states after the federal government issued new recommendations to vaccinate people 65 and older begin as soon as possible.

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In New York, they're currently vaccinating those 75 and older, first responders and front line workers. People 65 and older and those with underlying health conditions are now eligible, even though they weren't scheduled to be vaccinated until at least mid-March.

"This was a complete failure of almost every elected official and public health officials to realize the important of logistics and now we are playing catch up," Pitts said.

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